How does anyone make it on $263 million a year?

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The disparity in wealth in this country is obscene, and the failure to restrain the mindless and monumental greed that led to it has been our downfall.


The income of the 400 wealthiest Americans swelled in 2006, soaring nearly 23 percent from the previous year, to an average of $263 million, according to data released Thursday by the Internal Revenue Service. Since 1996, this group has nearly doubled its share of all income earned in the United States.

The top 400 paid just more than $18 billion in federal income taxes in 2006, or an average of $45 million, on a record $105 billion in total income – the lowest effective tax rate in the 15 years since the agency began releasing such data.

The New York Times

Forbes puts the figure at $262.5 million but why quibble over a measly half mil?  What I think is interesting is the ratio of richest to the lowest paid of 1 to 20,000.  Seems a mite lopsided to me.

Forbes told us that the 400 highest earning taxpayers reported $105 billion in adjusted gross income. That averages $262.5 million. $262 million versus the minimum wage level of $13,100 gives a ratio of over 20,000 to one.

naked capitalism

Yep, that measly half mil is not even enough to sustain a fat cat for a year.  The poor babies might have to pull their spoiled children out of those fancy private schools which would be tragic since they helped cheat public schools out of funding so now they’re all overcrowded and stuff.  It’s so sad to hear them cry.  It’s heartrending I tell you.

You Try to Live on 500K in This Town

PRIVATE school: $32,000 a year per student.

Mortgage: $96,000 a year.

Co-op maintenance fee: $96,000 a year.

Nanny: $45,000 a year.

We are already at $269,000, and we haven’t even gotten to taxes yet.

The New York Times

Cry me a fucking river.

To preserve and expand their privilege, the rich have not only ruthlessly exploited labor in this country for lo these many years, they have thoroughly corrupted our government by lavishing their millions on our ‘public servants’, turning them into lapdogs and errand boys and girls who live to do their bidding.   And these geniuses have led us all over the cliff.  They have poured trillions down the black hole of war in mindless servitude to the military industrial complex while providing nothing but crumbs, empty promises and lies for those who work for a living, those who struggle to get by and for people in need.  

Hundreds of billions for a fraudulent, completely unnecessary and shamefully immoral war in Iraq?  No problem.  A few bucks for the arts, or to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide healthcare for all Americans or rescue people from being foreclosed upon?  No fucking way.


The public has become little more than an annoyance to those who exercise power and those who purchase it for their own selfish and horrific ends.  We the people have become little more than a sideshow.  The American people don’t own this country anymore.  Our nation’s founders would be appalled.

Who Rules America?

In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 44.1% of all privately held stock, 58.0% of financial securities, and 57.3% of business equity. The top 10% have 85% to 90% of stock, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America.

UCSC Sociology Dept.

For decades our politicians, with perhaps some few exceptions, kept up a fa├žade of public service, lying to us passionately about doing ‘the people’s work’ as they blithely undercut everything the people cared about and aided and abetted the largest transfer of wealth in all of human history…from us to them.  Now they hardly bother to pretend.  “Impeachment is off the table,” Pelosi declared, public sentiment be damned, justice be damned, American values be damned.  Congress voted hundreds and hundreds of billions for bogus wars time and time again – the manifest will of the people be damned, compassion be damned, understanding be damned, common decency be damned.  Cheney and Bush couldn’t even be bothered to deny that they’d ordered people tortured.  Yeah we did it.  So what?

The arrogance of those who have dragged us back into the dark ages is stunning.  These bastards know no shame.  What a sad and sorry tale it is, the story of their reign.


Daniel and his brother Phillip, the infamous Berrigan Brothers who led the antiwar and antidraft movements during the Vietnam War and who founded the Plowshares Movement against WMDs, dedicated their lives to the cause of peace.  How sad for these noble men that for all their work and bravery, for the sheer enormity of their humanity, they could not alter the sad trajectory of our nation.  It seems we too often fail to listen to the right voices.

Why Is the Government Hell-Bent on Rewarding Greed, Incompetence and Narcissism?

While Merrill Lynch was imploding last year, requiring a $25 billion salvage job from us taxpayers, CEO John Thain was merrily spending $1.2 million to redecorate his office, including buying a $13,000 “custom” coffee table, a $1,400 wastebasket and a $35,000 antique commode (add your own toilet joke here).

In such tough times, why didn’t he just make do with the perfectly luxurious office of his predecessor?

“Well … his office was very different than the … the general decor of Merrill’s offices,” Thain told a CNBC interviewer. “It really would have been … very difficult … for … me to use it in the form it was in.”

Citigroup, which lost $28 billion in the past 15 months, has now received a $345 billion bailout from Washington. Time to cut nonessential spending, right? Yes — as long as “essential” includes a new $50 million Dassault Falcon 7X jet for top executives.

Never mind that the bank already has five executive jets in its fleet. It took a public expression of outrage from President Barack Obama to get Citigroup’s honchos to back off this extravagance, and it’s said that they’re still sulking about it.

Despite their historically disastrous year in 2008, Wall Street investment bankers awarded themselves a total of $18.4 billion in bonuses — the sixth-largest payout on record! Shouldn’t they be embarrassed, you ask? Of course, but a January poll of the bankers found that 46 percent of them felt they deserved a bigger bonus.

By the way, the Street’s rationalization for such giveaways is that top bankers must be showered with treasure in order to keep them hitched to the corporate plow. “Retention bonuses,” they’re called. Merrill Lynch’s Thain, for example, doled out $4 billion in bonuses last fall while the firm was awaiting its bailout check, explaining that it’s essential to “pay your best people,” or they’ll leave.

Shouldn’t he have to wear a clown costume when saying silly stuff like that? Leave to where? The whole Street is on fire. Besides, these are the geniuses who lit the match — who would want them?

Jim Hightower on Alternet

And while these ass-clowns are wallowing in hubris and millions and millions of dollars they neither need nor deserve, ordinary Americans are struggling to survive – and it ain’t looking good out here (speaking as one who has been out of work since last May).


I’d like to hope that the so-called stimulus bill is going to help, but I fear that it won’t.  I believe that we’re thinking too small and too conventionally.  Let’s talk about how we are all going to survive into the future, and forget about preserving a worn out and increasingly irrelevant status quo.  A new age has been thrust upon us.  Like it or not.

I hate to say it but things are only going to get worse.  There is not much anyone can do to avoid the logical consequences of 40 years of outright corruption, misrule and ideological idiocy – even if the venal repubs were trying to help, which of course they aren’t.  Everything has changed. Our economy has collapsed, it’s not ailing, it’s collapsing.  And our government, rather than do something bold like nationalize the financial, energy, pharmaceutical, healthcare and armaments industries (for starters) and doing things like canceling all consumer debts, is locked in simple-minded denial thinking they can just throw play money at the problem and somehow magically prop up this house of cards and do things the same way we have always done them – that we can somehow save the unrestrained free market capitalism game as we have known it.  

IMO, this so-called stimulus will at best only kick the can a bit further down the road and not much further at that.  Stimulus II will be on us in no time flat, just watch.  It will be just as ineffectual.  Then we’ll have Stimulus III because we can’t bring ourselves to think outside the box that brought us here.  

I just think they’re doing the wrong thing by propping up corporate America rather than bringing them to heel.  Giving the banks all that money with no oversight was insane, totally and inarguably bat shit crazy.  This stimulus is not much saner – at least not without taking harsher measures such as nationalization.  But we’re too brainwashed and scared of words like socialism to do the bold and right thing.  It’s a pity if true, and I hope it isn’t ultimately, but it does sometimes seem that collectively, we’re too brainwashed and/or stupid and/or selfish to save ourselves.

It’s Not Going to Be OK

The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.

How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of a superpower and a glorious tomorrow or will we responsibly face our stark new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up out of the slime in moments of crisis to offer fantastic visions? Will we radically transform our system to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common good, that defies the corporate state, or will we employ the brutality and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to crush all dissent? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

Chris Hedges on Alternet


I think it’s fairly obvious that capitalism as we have known it is done.  I know that many disagree, and it’s certainly possible that I’m wrong, but I doubt it.  I’ve watched this train wreck happen and I know it can’t be patched up with Band-Aids.  I think it’s time to get smart about a future that’s going to be challenge rich.  We are going to have to do things much differently going forward.  IMO, we need to get serious about the redistribution of wealth and the nationalization of certain out-of-control industries.  

Call it socialism if you like but it only makes sense to bring these destructive forces under control.

Economists Nouriel Roubini and Nassim Taleb, who predicted the global economic downturn, have called for a nationalization of banks in order to stop the financial meltdown. Do you agree?

The fact of the matter is, the banks are in very bad shape. The U.S. government has poured in hundreds of billions of dollars to very little effect. It is very clear that the banks have failed. American citizens have become majority owners in a very large number of the major banks. But they have no control. Any system where there is a separation of ownership and control is a recipe for disaster.

Nationalization is the only answer. These banks are effectively bankrupt.

Nationalized Banks Are “Only Answer” by Joseph Stiglitz

We need to completely reinvent our way of life, taking into consideration new and limiting realities, while hopefully avoiding the biggest mistakes of our past.  We have been slow to come to awareness of just how drastically and quickly our circumstances are changing.  We need to face the facts.  Propping up the old system under the present circumstances is lunacy, a distraction, and a total waste of limited resources.

We need to stop thinking in terms of tinkering with the flawed, crippled, dysfunctional and exhausted system we’ve got and start thinking in terms of replacing it with something new that makes sense, functions efficiently and serves the American people well – for a damned change!  It’s time for America 2.0.  We need to be bold and we need to think big…much bolder and much bigger than we’ve seen from our government so far.  

This is no time for more of the same.

The military industrial complex must be stopped before they consume everything.  It is a mindless machine and it will suck us dry unless we make it stop.


We desperately need to repurpose this unholy alliance of the armaments industry, Wall Street, the Corporate Media, assorted lobbyists and influence whores and corrupt politicians to make them stop what they’re doing and make them start serving the public good and get them focused on real problems.  We need to use all of that genius and energy and all of those resources to address that which actually threatens us.  Things such as our daunting environmental challenges, our need for renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and smart ways of meeting the challenges of caring properly, humanely and responsibly for the entire population of the earth, etc.  If we fail at these critical tasks humanity itself will pass out of existence and it will be all over as far as any of us and any of our progeny are concerned.  End of story.

I have never advocated anything other than peaceful revolution, but I do believe it’s going to take a revolution to ever make things right in America.  The 10% who own this country, having stolen it fair and square are not going to give it back.  We’re going to have to take it back.  I’m not the only one who thinks this either, and for better or worse I can see a revolution coming.  Those who haven’t been angry are becoming so.  People are waking up.  

And we are a sleeping dragon to be sure.  

Our government of, by and for the people is none of the above.  Those who run our government, at any time in modern history from either party, do not care about you and me.  They care only about themselves and their ultra-wealthy overlords.  The proofs of that statement are legion.  I defy anyone to give me one solid reason to think otherwise.

They have brought us to the brink of economic collapse and are now using that pathetic fact to blackmail us into giving them the last crumbs in the pantry.  They are so besotted with greed that they can think in no other terms.  To them, it’s all about stealing everything that we have.

They Better Hope We Don’t Wake Up

As I read about the unrest and outrage breaking out around the world, I sense the revolution coming.  I have mixed emotions about it too.  I believe it is needed, inevitable and something that has been coming for a very long time, but it’s also a frightening prospect.  Hopefully the pain can be minimized and the violence avoided.  Hopefully we can keep to the high road and keep it a peaceful revolution, but I predict that the fury of the American people will be fully felt on Capitol Hill in some form or fashion – and I don’t believe they’ve seen anything yet.  I believe that much is, at least potentially, a good thing because apparently only the fear of God (as we say down south) will ever make the corrupt corporate tools in congress set their greed and pathological self-interest aside and act in the best interests of the American people for a damned change (as they are supposed to do but which they have long ago forgotten all about).  

I think it would behoove congress to pull something pretty damned groovy out of their hat pretty damned quickly.  I would just encourage them to think big, though I have seen no signs of it as yet.  

People are angry and rightfully so, and it will get much worse in the coming days as the job losses mount and the homeless numbers surge.  The pain and outrage that is growing like a cancer on Main Street will soon be felt on Wall Street and in the halls of congress, as they should be.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.”

John. F.Kennedy

Tell congress to wake up and quit serving themselves and their greed-besotted billionaire overlords and start doing the right thing for the American people, because the American people are not going to put up with the same old crap for very much longer.  We can’t afford to.

It’s time to get serious about changing things in America.

Let congress receive that message loud and clear.



Skip to comment form

    • OPOL on February 8, 2009 at 21:51
  1. I’ve almost saved enough money to stage a hostile takeover of Kos Communications so I can take over DKos and un-ban myself.

    • Edger on February 8, 2009 at 22:32

    Tighten their belts, of course.

    And institute good secure anti-leakage programs.

    So that even less, or if possible nothing, ever “trickles down” again… :-/

    • LoE on February 8, 2009 at 23:03

    … how much work it is to spend that much money?  You are not properly appreciating the challenges these people face.

  2. for a “demonstration grant.”  Give me say $20 million for this year, and I’ll hire a writer and a videographer to follow me around and document the struggles in  my life.  When the year is over, you can pay me $250,000 for the next year to do an analysis of the data from the first year and to produce a coffee table book of my experiences.


  3. The boil on the rump of greed is spreading & with a too small & an ineffective band-aid, the boil only grows. The lancing of that boil will come, & I fear the disinfectant will be violence.

    The last refuge of some of these scoundrels will be to hide in the back(bath) rooms of the halls of power, sitting on their precious commodes, shitting their full pocketed pants, that conceals the boil that is them.

    • dennis on February 9, 2009 at 01:01

    layoff figures. The business press talks about “the economy” and says it is “shedding” jobs. Those aren’t jobs, those are workers, dammit, and these days, on average, 20,000 of us are getting pink slips every day!

    And that’s just in the US!

  4. Sad as it is — and it’s very sad — the American people never had this coming to them, but the real money people have been allowed to run amok for a long time now and BushCo enabled them and themselves even further — understatement of the day.

    I don’t agree with nationalization of the banks, though, and here’s why! To me, it’s a scary proposition.  None of this ever needed to happen to the extent that it has and here’s why!

    Thanks for this, OPOL!  If there is even a hint of anything positive in all of this, for those of us who have worked, but never had that much in this life, pulling in our belts is something we are not only able to do, but are accustomed to doing.  For those of the rich, who may also fall with the time, they will find if difficult if not impossible to deal with “pulling in their belts.”

  5. Let’s embrace diversity fully and include the Bernie Madoffs of the Wall Street world.  Grant them admission to this “resort” community.

    • Diane G on February 9, 2009 at 22:16

    The robber barons want MORE disparity, more money, less oversight, and we are dying out here.

    Cry me a fucking river, indeed, you ratbastards.


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