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Monday: Even Billionaires Get the Blues

It’s a good thing we still have Social Security.  There are some (formerly) rich people who are going to need it:

The epicenter of what may be the largest Ponzi scheme in history was the 17th floor of the Lipstick Building, an oval red-granite building rising 34 floors above Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

A busy stock-trading operation occupied the 19th floor, and the computers and paperwork of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities filled the 18th floor.

But the 17th floor was Bernie Madoff’s sanctum, occupied by fewer than two dozen staff members and rarely visited by other employees. It was called the “hedge fund” floor, but federal prosecutors now say the work Mr. Madoff did there was actually a fraud scheme whose losses Mr. Madoff himself estimates at $50 billion.

The tally of reported losses climbed through the weekend to nearly $20 billion, with a giant Spanish bank, Banco Santander, reporting on Sunday that clients of one of its Swiss subsidiaries have lost $3 billion. Some of the biggest losers were members of the Palm Beach Country Club, where many of Mr. Madoff’s wealthy clients were recruited.

The list of prominent fraud victims grew as well. According to a person familiar with the business of the real estate and publishing magnate Mort Zuckerman, he is also on a list of victims that already included the owners of the New York Mets, a former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and the chairman of GMAC.

Bummer.  Didn’t anyone tell these suckers, er, wealthy individuals to diversify their assets?
It’s interesting that Madoff himself refers to what he did as a “Ponzi Scheme”.  So, the people who got to the party late footed the bill for the ones who came early.  But is that where all of the money went?  Does that mean the early investors have at least a moral obligation to refund their ill gotten booty to the late investors?

Morals?

On another note, it looks like the Republicans are still not done with their irrational hatred of everything labor.  Paul Krugman makes reference to the Republicans’ efforts to stick a fork in the unions before the changing of the guard next month.  The hard hearted meanies can’t find it in themselves to extend a measley $15 billion to the autoworkers so they can keep their jobs and their houses and prevent Michigan from turning into a landscape straight out of I Am Legend.  But when Krugman turned his attention to Europe, where the Germans are holding out for equally selfish reasons this line had me giggling:

Last week Peer Steinbrück, Mrs. Merkel’s finance minister, went even further. Not content with refusing to develop a serious stimulus plan for his own country, he denounced the plans of other European nations. He accused Britain, in particular, of engaging in “crass Keynesianism.”

The Germans are being stubborn and dragging their feet, refusing to join the rest of the class and insisting that nothing needs to change.  (I hate to stereotype but my own experience with my German colleagues is oddly similar.  You must prove something a priori before they sign on to actually trying it and even then, they resist.)  But Germany is hardly immune to sharing the wealth so the flinching from Keynesian economics is pretty funny, even if it is shortsighted and ruinous for everyone else in the EU.

But the US has it easy in the area of labor unions compared to Germany.  Decades of assault on labor has resulted in very little protection for them.  What do the billionaires want anyway?

It must be the sheer scale that is the problem.  A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.  Money has no real meaning to the superrich. There are only so many necessities of life a person can buy with a billion dollars.  After a certain threshhold value, it’s all play money.  Is that why they seem to be so stingy towards the people who work for them?

Well, we can only hope that there will be some new riches to rags stories that will come out of the Great Financial Collapse of 2008 that will make it all worthwhile.  Schadenfreude and all that.

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93 Responses

  1. yeah, poor Madoff – all those headlines break my heart!
    And because this unfortunately is needed: Why is Whitewater NOT like blagobamarama
    http://edgeoforever.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/why-whitewater-is-not-like-blagobamarama/

  2. A billion dollars just doesn’t buy what it used to.

  3. I’ve been proved wrong again. I always thought that “rich” folks were protected from their own silliness with layer after layer of experts. After all, they can afford them. Or they could have.

  4. Not just billionaires (from Yahoo news):

    Reports from Florida to Minnesota included profiles of ordinary investors who gave Madoff their money. Some had been friends with him for decades, others were able to invest because they were a friend of a friend. They told stories of losing everything from $40,000 to an entire nest egg worth well over $1 million.

    And lots of charities are involved, including this:

    New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, entrusted his family’s charitable foundation to Madoff. Lautenberg’s attorney, Michael Griffinger, said they weren’t yet sure the extent of the foundation’s losses, but that the bulk of its investments had been handled by Madoff.

    Lautenberg’s foundation handed out more than $765,000 to at least 100 recipients in 2006, according to the most recent listing on Guidestar, which tracks charitable organization filings.

    The foundation helps support a variety of religious, educational, civic and arts organizations in New Jersey and elsewhere, and its contributions range from a gift of than $300,000 to the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey to a $2,000 donation to a children’s program at the Hackensack Medical Center.

    Sad.

  5. Before the Great Depression, there was little sympathy for the poor. The poor were lazy and didn’t apply themselves. Now, as then, the rich will be standing shoulder to shoulder in the bread lines. Since Reagan, we have had the callous attitude of I will get/steal/ mine and the hell with you.
    It is dejavu all over again.

  6. Speaking of billions…which seems to be so much easier to say these days, remember the million days?
    lolollololololol

    well, anyway many lawmakers in Illionois are calling the governor there “narcisstic” does his story remind you of anyone else from Chicago?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Anyone who wants a peek inside Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s head should look back to last year, when the Illinois House voted on his plan for the biggest tax increase in state history.

    Not a single lawmaker voted for the $7 billion tax — a stunning rebuke of the governor’s leadership and legislative know-how.

    His reaction to the defeat: “Today, I think, was basically an up … I feel good about it.”
    Whether you call it optimism or delusion, Blagojevich has always acted as if nothing can ever go wrong for him. He paints himself as the hero and others as the villain, once even claiming he was in God’s corner in a legislative battle.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I swear, he and Obama could be twins.

  7. Sen. Lautenberg received $9000 from Obama during the primaries – perhaps he can ask for a bailout from the $600,000,000 Obama fund. I’m sure that Obama will be happy to help a Senator who gave him my primary vote without my consent.

  8. Put on your black armbands and mourn with me. You know who will be President-Elect, for real– the electoral college meets today.

    But on a more humorous note…

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20081215/pl_politico/16569

  9. Linda C. – and yet, we refuse to admit there’s anything wrong with the way we are doing business. Deregulation good, free market good, rich good, social safety net = massive left-wing conspiracy to institute Communism in America (yes, people really think that).

    Can you imagine the American government taking over the means of production and seizing the wealth of the fat cats to give it to the poor? As IF!

    I think the biggest difference between believers and non-believers in the social safety net is the hierarchy that we believe in when it comes to government and business.

    New Deal believers feel that business should answer to government.

    New Deal non-believers feel that government should answer to business. In my opinion, that’s fascism. Government should only answer to the people.

  10. This reminds me of the New Era ponzi scheme, here in Philly , that went Boom in 1993. Wow , how that guy gather in every big wig foundation, museum and university . It was a crushing blow to local philanthropy and the effects are still being felt . Proves anyone can be played if the con “looks the ticket”….and that can be the office as well as the person.

    Rd, if Germans must have something proved to them over and over, then perhaps they should be put in charge of these foundations, museums and universities that keep getting hooked winked. lol!

  11. johninca – Ooooh, they used the word “preening!” And quoted Sean Wilentz!

    That article is awesome.

  12. Unfortunately, for people at the upper income levels, there are all kinds of loopholes in the bankruptcy laws for them to protect enough assets to get by pretty well. It’s why a few years back Donald Trump declared bankruptcy, stiffed half his creditors, then threw a $15 million wedding.

    I doubt too many of the rich will be consigned to wage slavery or living under freeway overpasses. More ordinary folks and the charities won’t be so well off.

    Sorry for the post-and-run, but I have multiple boxes of documents to sort so I can maintain my current wage slavery and avoid my own freeway spot. A good day to everyone.

  13. Delphyne, on December 15th, 2008 at 9:24 am Said:
    Sen. Lautenberg received $9000 from Obama during the primaries – perhaps he can ask for a bailout from the $600,000,000 Obama fund. I’m sure that Obama will be happy to help a Senator who gave him my primary vote without my consent.
    ********************************************

    lautenberg didn’t give obama your primary vote, you can thank corzine for that one.

  14. ainnj – Indeed. I understand Corzine has a terrible approval rating in NJ. You guys never seem to get a good governor there, do you?

    We had a great one here, finally, until Eliot Spitzer decided he couldn’t control his weenis. Ex-Lt. Gov. David Paterson seems to be doing a good job, however.

  15. I liked corzine, until the convention. That pissed me off.

  16. Another future scandal scape is how the boards members of non-profits are lining their pockets with the money that supposed to go to the charity. There were a few brush fires here that where stamped out before becoming full blown , but as times worsen, most likely these boards will come under greater scrutiny.

    Anywhere the rich can get richer behind closed doors is worth looking into. I’d be foolish to think I could not be temped myself …I just haven’t had the opportunity! lol!

  17. johninca,

    I was wondering when someone who had actually read Team of Rivals would realize just about every analogy conjured by the media and the Lightbringer is just plain wrong headed. To think what has happened in 2008 is in any way reminiscent of Lincoln is laughable. It is 900 pages, but there are those of us who did slog through it.

  18. Enough is never really enough for these people. Garganuan homes that eat up resources, outrageous “toys”, overpriced designer clothes, buckets of jewels, and while they are out “stealing” from us, demanding “respect” from those who live far below their radar.

    How does one afford that $25 million dollar home? Not by dint of hard work. It is from these white collar phonies that political contributions are drawn. They exist in their own little circles of hell and accountability will be extinguished by some high priced lawyer.

    As Gordon Greco once intoned: Greed is good!

  19. Yes,” the hell with you”….the elderly who cannot heat their homes in the coming winter, the children who have no health care, those out of work and unable to care for their families, the troops fighting elitist corporate contractor wars………so fed up with these elitists.

    If Sen. Lautenberg participated in this scam to profit way more than he knew damn well he should with his trust’s money, I expect in his GREED he would have invested personal funds too.

    G-d damn elitists who float around on a golden cloud above us “ordinaries” stealing us blind and throwing down peanuts to those of us with our feet on the ground.

    And where is PE Obama? Remember PEBO met with senators after the bailout legislation failed to pass the house. Then Pelosi swooned to the press that Obama had corrected problems in the bill and it would now pass the House. Anyone seen or read of “improvements” made to the bailout bill?? NO!!

    Who will receive what remains of the 700 billion bailout money that Bush is going to spend and neither Obama or dems. in Congress object to him doing?

    No doubt the greedy elitists like Lautenberg and cohorts. Soon there won’t even be peanuts left for us on the ground.

  20. Prolix: I was one of those who “slogged” through it. There is no comparison unless you are in the business of wholesale revisionism. Comparing Obama to Lincoln is wish fulfillment.
    FDR also included Repubs in his administration because their expertise was needed to sort out the financial mess.

    Obama is a mere caricature of those men. Enough with the accolades already! Let him do something first before the press anoints him as another Ghandi for God’s sake! I can see that one coming as they run out of icons in their quest to make him into something he is not.

  21. Not sure I get the “rich people are bad” mind set. Is it sort of like blondes are dumb?
    Yeah, some rich people are evil and greedy, so are some not so rich people. Some got there by luck, some by hard work, some by a combo of the two, some by stealing. Seeing people fall doesn’t give me any pleasure and the reverberations from this will not be limited to only wealthy investors (as someone pointed out a post or two ago). Financially wealthy people losing their fortunes will not help those that are not financially wealthy, and quite likely will hurt many of them as well.

  22. I agree with ainnj– there’s a difference between the rich who obtained their wealth legitimately, and those who obtained it through greed and crime.

  23. Calypso, on December 15th, 2008 at 9:59 am Said:

    No doubt the greedy elitists like Lautenberg and cohorts.
    **********************************************

    Why is he a greedy elitist?

  24. ainnj – I am not saying rich people are bad. What I am objecting to is the idea that because they are rich, they are intrinsically good. This idea is linked to Social Darwinism and the philosophies of Leo Strauss.

    I do not think wealth confers instant goodness on a person, any more than the lack of it confers instant badness on a person. Many so-called libertarians and Reaganites, however, would disagree.

  25. ainnj – I see no evidence that Lautenberg was involved in the Ponzi scheme. His mistake seems to be trusting a guy who had been a successful investor for decades.

    If it turns out he knew, however, off with his head! (metaphorically speaking of course)

  26. It appears that none of the investors had any idea there was anything bad going on.

  27. madamab, on December 15th, 2008 at 10:09 am Said:
    ainnj – I see no evidence that Lautenberg was involved in the Ponzi scheme. His mistake seems to be trusting a guy who had been a successful investor for decades.
    ***********************************

    No, he was not involved in the scheme. So why does this make him a greedy elitist? Because he happens to be a man who has worked hard all his life to get to where he is today? He has done a lot of pretty good things while Senator, got a lot of bills passed, strong advocate for women. It’s either ignorance or jealousy or perhaps both, to call someone a greedy elitist because he is rich.

  28. I think the post was designed to showcase those crooks who did the “perp walk” by stealing from investors and walking away with million dollar golden parachute deals that come at the expense of others.

    I don’t think it was intended to condemn anyone who has made their money the legitimate way but more for those whose sole purpose was to defraud while enriching themselves to the tune of billions while the ordinary guy was left in the dust.

    It becomes stomach turning to hear of millions of dollars being spent on “parties” by those who then find themselves under indictment by the SEC.

    A good CEO can only be judged on how well the lowliest worker in his organization is doing. But for those who walk away with millions of dollars while the little guy goes begging smacks of fraud with little or no oversight.

  29. The whole point of Barry to these people is he doesn’t do anything. He just ” is” . There are latte obots that LOVE that about him . We keep saying what has he done?? But to them that’s the best part. I sometimes think everything in US politics comes down to “good works” ( Hillary) or ” selected” ( Barry.)

    This was the huge religious beef from the start here and it’s still going great guns . The good works camp believes you need to earn your way to heaven with, good works you personally perform. While the select crowds says one is just selected for heaven ….what they do, or don’t do of themselves doesn’t matter .

    Traditionally Dems were usually the good works people and GOP , the select camp . But beyond party, what it’s really about is the elite. Having sucked the GOP pretty dry, They moved to a new host, the Dems.

  30. madamab, on December 15th, 2008 at 10:07 am Said:
    ainnj – I am not saying rich people are bad. What I am objecting to is the idea that because they are rich, they are intrinsically good. This idea is linked to Social Darwinism and the philosophies of Leo Strauss.
    ***********************************************

    Who feels they are intrinsically good? or bad for that matter? DO they have more? Of course they do. Can they afford better education, healthcare, lawyers, etc? Of course they can. That has nothing to do with their intrinsic moral worth or lack thereof.

  31. To fight a lot of this, we need better information. I reviewed the History Channel’s show “Crash” that was on Saturday night (in the roundup on Sunday) which was FULL of glossing what happened…a real misinformation-fest, by dint of omission. They tried to make Obama into FDR, but, of course, FDR put into place regulations…we were told by the “experts’ that we didn’t need that, just needed to make what we have now workd “better.”

    That said, we all need to group together to offset this mass, deliberate media protection of Obama and his crew… To that end, read this piece and find out more…It IS possible to put up a fight….if….

    W.A.M. Asks — Who Needs Christmas When You Can Worship “THE ONE”?

    http://insightanalytical.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/wam-asks-who-needs-christmas-when-you-can-worship-the-one/

  32. It used to be a CEO would make about twelve times the workers– well, that’s what I’ve heard. Maybe Dkat or someone could confirm. Now they make what– up to a thousand times as much? And in some cases ship jobs to sweatshop countries.

    I don’t even believe in capitalism to begin with, but that’s the point where it really gets sick…

  33. This election has shown that both parties are in need of a new moral compass. Neither one is above reproach. Our mistake was in thinking that the Dem Party stood for us. Our dismay was in discovering that this was a fallacy.

    A pox on both houses! It is by this collaboration that we find ourselves in the mess we are today. Both parties have a hand in this creation. There are few heroes.

  34. ainnj – Lautenberg seems to be a good guy. I don’t think he is a greedy elitist.

    I agree with PJ. RD’s post was not about people who work hard and get rich. RD’s post was about people like Madoff.

  35. PS–I agree with previous commentors that being rich isn’t necessarily connected to being crooked….
    Maybe “nobless oblige” isn’t as evident as it used to be…but a lot of the rich are NOT crooks and want good things for everyone.

    I’d put Lady Rothschild (rich by marriage) in that category these days….

  36. Ainnj – I consider Lautenberg in cahoots with Corzine and the rest of those thieves who took my vote. I, too, used to like Corzine until that happened – same with Lautenberg.

  37. ainnj – I just gave you examples of who thinks rich people are intrinsically good: Social Darwinists, people who follow Leo Strauss, many Libertarians and Reaganites.

    I have no idea why you are so exercised over what I am saying today, but you don’t seem to be reading my comments very carefully.

    johninca – What do you think is the best economic system?

  38. Capitalism is the foundation of a healthy society. It provides goods and services, create jobs, contributes to the common good. It is not capitalism per se that is the root problem. It is the greed of those who manage to bend the intent for their own purposes.

    The sickness that pervades this society by way of greed is what is crippling. It is capitalism that makes the world go round. Look to those who captain these ships as the catalysts who steer it into the shoals.

  39. madamab, on December 15th, 2008 at 10:18 am Said:
    ainnj – Lautenberg seems to be a good guy. I don’t think he is a greedy elitist.

    I agree with PJ. RD’s post was not about people who work hard and get rich. RD’s post was about people like Madoff.
    **********************************************

    I disagree. She writes about those that were victims of Madoff’s scheme as follows:

    “Bummer. Didn’t anyone tell these suckers, er, wealthy individuals to diversify their assets?”

    and

    “Money has no real meaning to the superrich”.

    Most of the super rich that were defrauded do diversify their assets. The fact that they are rich doesn’t mean their losses are meaningless. It doesn’t insulate them from being defrauded, actually it makes them more of a target at times.

    To say that money has no real meaning to most extremely wealthy people is a silly myth, something from an old mgm movie. Does anyone really think that someone who has been able to make so much money would fail to see the meaning in that money? I think too many of us equate wealth with pseudo celebrities like paris hilton. too much tv.

  40. PJ – People will always be greedy, though. That’s why we need to mix capitalism with a dash of socialism – the way FDR did. The 50’s were a golden decade in terms of the standard of living being very high for the middle and lower classes. This was largely due to the success of the New Deal.

    Now, the New Deal protections and regulations are almost gone, and we are becoming a third-world society. 3.5 million more people are living at HALF the national poverty level than they were at the end of Clinton’s term. HALF. (read it in Harper’s Index this morning)

    Seems like pretty direct cause and effect to me, but what do I know? I’m just a dumb opera singer.

    😉

  41. Will Rogers said “Rich people are different from you and me.”

    He also said “God must love poor pople, he made so many of them.”

  42. Greed has traditionally been one of the Catholic 7 deadly sins, which include lust, gluttony, pride, envy, sloth, wrath, and greed.

    Buddhism too, condemns greed:

    Buddhists believe greed is based on incorrectly connecting material wealth with happiness. This is caused by a view that exaggerates the positive aspects of an object; that is, acquiring material objects has less impact than we imagine on our feelings of happiness. This view has been corroborated by studies in the field of happiness economics, which confirm that beyond the provision of a basic level of material comfort, more wealth does not create greater happiness.

    wikipedia on greed.

  43. madamab: And I am far less intelligent than you! I think what is needed is a healthy dose of oversight to keep these crooks and liars on a more straightened path. What we have seen is more like letting the fox into the henhouse. The “rewards” are much too tempting.

    It just makes one wonder just what and how they are teaching these days in those vaunted schools of finance.

  44. madamab– what a question!! That would take an entire post, maybe a large book.

    Basically my sympathies are with distributism. A Distributist is someone who might agree with much of the populist critique of capitalism without being a left winger.

    Ultimately social justice consists in a Living Wage. That is the centerpiece for a just society. When you see almost our entire retail industry selling sweatshop products, only then do you realize how far we are from social justice.

  45. PJ:

    Progressive taxation helps cure greed.

  46. Madoff’s scheme has apparently been going on since the 1960s. We can’t blame it on Bush, or Clinton, or any recent president, or regulations or lack thereof.

    It is a catastrophic violation of trust, and that I think is the issue. Not greed, but trust in someone you thought was at least in some cases a friend.

  47. “Greed” is taking more than you need. The Indians, although considered barbaric from the white man’s point of view, recognized this long before we arrived and took everything we laid eyes on.

    The emulation of Veruca Salt, “I want it all now”, has been elevated to new levels. When a $6,000 shower curtain becomes a “symbol” of wealth we need to step back and examine priorities.

  48. Plural: It is a catastrophic violation of trust, and that I think is the issue. Not greed, but trust in someone you thought was at least in some cases a friend.

    Wow – you just perfectly expressed how I feel about the Democratic Party and their RBC and Convention shenanigans.

  49. Somewhat lost in the Madoff melange was Marc Dreier, a hedege fund manager, who only scammed about $100 million. He was caught with boxes of cell phones and other accoutrements of his trade. His attorney, while asking for bail, claimed that Dreier wasn’t a flight risk.

    Problem was, Dreier had been originally picked up in Canada.

    It is a sad, sad commentary when stealing $100 million isn’t big money any more.

  50. Looks like the Elie Weisel Foundation for Humanity lost a bundle investing with madoff. But its just another greedy elitist who didn’t diversify right?

  51. I think when greed reaches the level of obscenity, a la Halliburton and such, then morality has all but disappeared. If someone could explain the benefits of those gross profits I would be amenable to listen.

  52. The quotes that struck me from that yahoo article johninca linked above. Obama’s deliberate attempt to link himself to Lincoln is such a blatant example of his ego and infatuation with the image of the presidency vs. the actual job.

    “I’m LeBron, baby,” he told a Chicago Tribune reporter at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. “I can play on this level. I got some game.”
    —–

    “He’s a hero with a thousand heroisms,” Wilentz wrote in an email, suggesting that Obama was intentionally “blending his own image with the only president (apart from Washington, who lacks lovability) who has attained sainthood.”

    Thus, Wilentz said, Obama “keeps flexible yet gets canonized before he’s even sworn in. An amazing political feat.”

  53. PJ:

    Back in 1848 some California Indians were amused at the eagerness of white men to collect shiny rocks arong the riverbanks.

    Then lots more white men came, and the whole place went to hell.

  54. The point is that those in power seek and expect privilege ie, “rights granted as an advantage or favor” . This doesn’t mean that in parts of their lives they don’t do good deeds or love their families, etc…however they are treated differently that those of us not in power.

    Certainly this is proven time and time again, ordinary citizens are treated differently in fianance, health care, education, by LAW enforcement, on and on you could name “privileges” people with power have that we don”t.

    Until this attitude by the “privileged” changes and we all treated equally our country is lost. For crying out loud……the “privileged” stole our vote in “08”……!! It has to end.

  55. Disparity of wealth is inherently anti-democratic.

  56. One of the major causes of the Dust Bowl back in the 30’s and which eventually help to create the Great Depression to some extent, came about when the Indians advised the farmers in how to plant crops. The farmers did not heed the advice but instead planted the same grounds over and over which weakened the soil. Thus the land became unusable causing many farmers to lose their land which was worth nothing.

    The Indians must have felt somewhat vindicated but probably just shook their heads at the folly of those who refused to listen to sound advice.

  57. Jesus didn’t like rich people – he said it was nearly impossible for them to get into Heaven.

    Somehow his message got distorted into “Wealth is a sign of God’s approval”

  58. myiq: Jesus had yet to hear the message of Joel and Victoria Osteen.

  59. “Jesus had yet to hear the message of Joel and Victoria Osteen”

    If He had He might have become a Christian.

  60. Those in power steal our money , cheat us , steal our votes, they violate the sacred trust of the people time and again, blatantly lie to us ; and still want our respect ,approval and even heroic status . When will the American people awaken ?? It absolutely has to end . I want a divorce from them, I think I have grounds .

  61. Our priorities are all mixed up. We laud those who command million dollar salaries for simply being able to aim a ball at a basket while ignoring teachers, nurses, fireman. the military, and police who actually serve a greater purpose.

    Anyone who finds themselves on the cover of national mags are those we praise and honor and when they fall from grace there are plenty more waiting in the wings to fill that role.

    If we would only admit to it, we all aspire to the same treatment. How else to explain lottery tickets?

  62. Anyone who would pull off a scheme like that and defraud so many?
    Justice should happen. A la JAIL!

    ps: There is no THERE THERE when it comes to that kind of sociopathy like malignant narcissism on that scale. Imagine someone who has nothing inside but a void — like a hole where the soul ought to be. They are like the walking ZOMBIES…

    The times parallel the French Rev. When it gets really bad — to the point of total corruption — the masses rise.

    At least in 1929 people still had some sense of heart. Now?

    Also, if it all falls apart — these moguls will be the least equipped. Truly. To survive.

    ps: the only two new cars I ever bought were American cars.
    I did that on purpose. Strictly because they were American. They had best not let that industry go.

    This is where I feel McC was right after Hillary — he could see it coming — and he cared. What is the worst? There will be an escalation of the social problems we already have right now. I’m seeing tons of searches still for the Clinton pumas, RD.

    The other searches are all about domestic violence. Lots of them.
    These rich (noveau riches) are not philanthropists — like most of the old guard are. That’s the diff. The very sad diff.

    I bet this looks very different state by state right now. Very different. One wonders if this was all orchestrated or? This all happened because of negligence. Dark days. The monopoly art is perfect.

  63. It is never a good thing when anyone is scammed. Though it does seem to be more acceptable to those here when they are perceived to be rich.

    I am a single parent with two children still “at home”. I don’t consider myself rich. However, I am sitting here on one of two computers in my home typing this. Each of my kids has a tv in their room. We all have cell phones. They have ipods, dvd players and xbox. They have their own snow boards and boots.

    By my parents and grandparents’ standards, I am “wealthy” beyond their wildest dreams. And by world standards, I probably am.

    My kids are never hungry, tho they always complain about having nothing to eat. And sleep comfortably in either a warm or air conditioned home. There is most possibly a larger distance between a middle class average American and the rest of the world, that there is between me and Donald Trump.

    No one losing money is a good thing.

  64. New thread up, boring history stuff.

  65. One thing that bugs me about the auto industry bailout. The Republicans are screaming that the greedy union workers wouldn’t agree to cut their pay in order to share some of the pain. Why weren’t these same Republicans insisting that financial industry workers cut their pay when they were handed hundreds of billions of dollars in their own bailout?

  66. janicen: You mean those same industry wizards who were funding their coffers? Good question.

  67. janicen – Union-busting is now SOP for all true-believing Republicans. Just go on some of the rightwing sites – you will not believe the animosity towards the “rich” union workers who make “78/hr”. They never mention the fact that the worker takes home only $24/hr, and the company spends the rest on benefits.

    If they REALLY want to cut costs for auto industries and other manufacturers, they would advocate for single-payer health insurance. But somehow, they think that is communism and it makes their heads rotate 360 degrees, like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”

  68. Boo hoo for the poor rich people?

  69. I think there are two levels of clients in the Madoff case, and we will never know for sure who knew what, or when. One level are the smaller investors, who were probably relying on Madoff’s good reputation. They invested their “nest eggs” and most likely had no idea he was a fraud. The problem I see with the super rich is that I think that anyone, who had that kind of money, on some level, should have known better when they saw unusually high profits appearing. These were experienced business people. I can only surmise that they didn’t want to know.

  70. myiq2xu, on December 15th, 2008 at 11:50 am Said:
    Boo hoo for the poor rich people?
    ***********************************************

    No? They lose their money and you don’t feel compassion? Their victimized but it’s ok because they are rich? Some posts here are just sounding like out and out jealousy and hatred for others who have more accumulated wealth than the most people. Your posts seem to be mentioning Jesus. I would guess, although being an atheist I obviously have no corner on biblical references, that Jesus would feel as much compassion for the rich that were victimized as well as the poor, no? Would he not perhaps feel more compassion since they apparently are destined for an eternity in hell, as you alluded to in a prior post?

  71. Karl’s Doberman needs to be let out for a walk — intentionally misreading or being too dumb to understand what is written shouldn’t be allowed in here.

    And Germany is part of the EU.

  72. angienc, on December 15th, 2008 at 12:10 pm Said:
    And Germany is part of the EU.
    *******************************************

    Not sure I understand this point? karl wrote that germany was a sovereign country, being a member of the EU doesn’t make it any less of a sovereign country. But maybe that is not what you meant?

  73. ainnj:

    If they lose all their money they won’t be rich, so then they can get into Heaven.

  74. Germans at the moment have a right-wing government. France has a right-wing government, and a strong tradition of protectionism. Britain has a left-wing government and a historical attachment to Keynesianism.

    I am sure the rich are never as victimised as people being paid less than the living wage.

    After all people who get scammed, go into it with their eyes open, hoping to make a quick buck without actually working for it. The scammers play on their greed. (which is why it’s one of the 7 deadly sins)

  75. myiq2xu, on December 15th, 2008 at 12:15 pm Said:
    ainnj:

    If they lose all their money they won’t be rich, so then they can get into Heaven.
    ***************************************************

    ahh, thanks for clearing that up.

  76. Posting comments here is a privilege, not a right.

    Insulting a moderator is a fast track to losing that privilege.

  77. Laurie, on December 15th, 2008 at 12:16 pm Said:

    I am sure the rich are never as victimised as people being paid less than the living wage.

    After all people who get scammed, go into it with their eyes open, hoping to make a quick buck without actually working for it. The scammers play on their greed. (which is why it’s one of the 7 deadly sins)
    ***************************************************

    I agree, the rich are probably never as victimized as the poor, which also probably indicates that the poor are scammed more than the rich. Does that mean the poor are greedier than the rich? I don’t think so and I would guess you don’t either but that is, in effect, what you are arguing here.

  78. Seems to be a lot of stereotyping and closed mindedness today. ciao.

  79. jesus christ indeed
    the elderly couple on gma this morning who lost their life savings said their returns were normal-not in any way eyebrow raising.

    how are people gloating over this?

    and wtf is this heaven stuff all about?

    the german bashing is a bit much. didn’t someone catch a rash of shit here at one point for allegedly snubbing the French?

  80. My husband came up with a brilliant idea for an auto industry bailout. Rather than hand over hundreds of billions of dollars, why doesn’t the government agree to replace it’s entire fleet of vehicles with new, American made cars? Whether or not the cars and trucks and suv”s need replacing, the money would put all of the workers to work and get the factories churning and help all of those auxiliary industries we keep hearing about. At the same time, all government owned vehicles would be updated. I think it would be better than just handing them some money.

  81. Couldn’t avoid adding this to the mixture:

    “Bill Clinton knew that in 1991, when he began his presidential campaign. “The Reagan-Bush years,” he declared, “have exalted private gain over public obligation, special interests over the common good, wealth and fame over work and family. The 1980s ushered in a Gilded Age of greed and selfishness, of irresponsibility and excess, and of neglect.””

    Ainnj, no my argument was another.
    I remember very clearly an economics professor in an ivy-league university, (or it may have been Chicago) , standing up before his students (during the 80s) and affirming it’s right to be greedy. He was met with wild cheers from the student throng.

    This represented a upturning of previous elite philosophy, which had been based on an idea of service to the community on the part of those who were more fortunate in their riches.

    If you mean that the poor are being scammed by being paid a less than living wage and that this makes them greedy , I find that strange.

  82. I see a lot of sarcasm. I wouldn’t put much into it.

    By the way, Lady Lynn de Rothschild didn’t just marry money. She was a self-made millionaire before she ever met her husband. One is not only honest if they marry money. Sometimes they earn it honestly too.

  83. Catarina-were you caught in the snow storm?

  84. ainnj, on December 15th, 2008 at 12:13 pm Said:

    Pay attention — RD’s critique of Germany is for their being a hold out for the stimulus plans and their blasting of other nations who want the plan. Do you know what the EU is designed to do? Germany cannot be part of the EU for the benefits only & then hold out on stimulus plans that other members of the EU want. So Karl’s point about Germany being a “sovereign nation” was the one that had no relevance here.

  85. Sorry, don’t recall what Karl’s point was anymore. But Germany is a sovereign state (or nation) and a member of the EU.

  86. Laurie
    still no lights, heat, water here in northern ma
    we will be cleaning up debris for a few days…
    Iphone=good!

    I’ve been mostly offline for a few days, feeling like Alice in wonderland right now.
    All of a sudden, weird jesus and heaven stuff!

    Reg
    thanks for posting that
    you are right about Lyn’s fortune- she is self-made.
    is she a bad person b/c she made a pile of money? of course not.

  87. Да здравствует революция!

    Karl’s point was: The EU is not particularly strong. Britain for instance does not participate in the EUs monetary system (Germany does). Membership in the EU does not diminish the sovereignty of a country. So does that mean that Brittain can’t be part of the EU because they have not adopted the EUR? That just doesn’t hold up.
    Next time, think before you call someone else dumb, missing the point.

  88. ‘Will Rogers said “Rich people are different from you and me.”’

    Actually, the famous version of that line is from F. Scott Fitzgerald, who envied and admired the rich and once mused aloud to Ernest Hemingway that “the rich are different from you and I,” to which Hemingway retorted, “Yeah, they have more money.”

    There are a LOT of people who think rich people are better–the whole “American Dream”– not to mention much of the success of the Republican Party — is based on the idea that if you’re smart and work hard, and the government doesn’t tax you too much, then you too can be rich! Anyone can do it!

    Of course, this little fantasy ignores the fact that the majority of wealthy Americans inherited their money, they didn’t work for it. And if you’ve ever been around seriously rich people what you realize more than anything is that it’s not that they are inherently bad or good–but they are extremely disconnected from everyday reality. I mean to an awe-inspiring degree. I went to college with really rich kids (I was one of the few “normals” there) and I saw this in action constantly. I once dated a guy from a wealthy family and when he bought a condo, he urged me to do the same–I was in my 20s and broke, but he honestly did not understand why my father couldn’t just sit down and write me a check for 20K the way his had; just couldn’t wrap his mind around it. They are very insulated from the reality most of us live. Does that make them good or bad?

  89. comrade karl is Karl’s doberman’s sock puppet — still pretending to not understand or being too dumb to be allowed to post here.

    ainnj — I assure you I remember what Karl wrote & he had no point. Right now, neither do you — the fact that Germany is a sovereign nation has nothing to do with it being a member of the EU nor does it have anything to do with RD’s critique of Germany for holding out on the stimulus — do you understand? Karl was the one throwing around “sovereign nation” as a red herring & if you want to go down that path fine, but I’m not chasing after it anymore.

  90. This has been a very interesting if not eclectic thread. I see the argument of rich vs. poor as a couple of false choices. Jesus is completely wrong. Rich people aren’t inherently evil or greedy. Poor people aren’t necessarily good either. Many poor people are greedy as hell. It is a human condition. It transcends all class and all stereotypes and all nationalities.

    As for charities I stopped donating years ago when I decided to take a closer look at them. Much of the money donated to charities goes to the “staff”, transportation, office costs, etc. Very little gets to the intended beneficiary. Some charities are much better than others. Local charities tend to be fabulous. They really help people. I take a more skeptical view on the bigger charities.

    Religious charities, espcially national, I really loathe. I hate the idea that our government has forked over tons of cash the last 8 years to these charities. Do they do good? You bet your ass they do. Does it come at a cost? Absolutely. There is a whole lot of problems associated with religious charity.

    Do I feel bad that rich people and charities were victimized by Madoff? Not really. They didn’t do their homework. They wanted to make an easy buck. Clearly, when it comes to investing there is major risk. Ask my wife. Her retirement fund has taken a bath the last couple of years. Nothing we can do about it though except stay the course and hope Obama etal can help right the ship.

    If you start a charity and really need to protect the investment maybe you should invest the funds in government bonds, cd’s, FDIC insured savings accounts, etc. The return won’t be as significant but the risk is practically zero. You can bet if the US government fails then your dollar ain’t going to be worth anything anyway. People like Mark Cuban and Ross Perot invested billions in government bonds. Why? It is the smart way to invest. Greed isn’t good.

    I think beginning in 1980 when Reagan was inaugurated we ushered in arguably the most corrupt time in American history. Maybe it really isn’t but it is damned close. Union busting is corrupt. This is what GM, Ford, Chrysler and Congress are trying to do. How many hedge funds are really Ponzi schemes? How much of our tax dollars have been diverted to charities and then disappeared? How many workers had or are going to have their incomes and benefits dramatically reduced the last 20 years? It isn’t going to get better.

  91. angie:

    I agree. According to whois they are neighbors.

  92. “One is not only honest if they marry money. Sometimes they earn it honestly too.”

    And, as they say, if you marry for money you’ll earn every penny of it. Heh.

    My friend’s aunt (who was widowed young and then married a rich guy) holds to the theory that a woman should marry the first time for love, and the second time for money.

  93. DancingOpossum — the first time I married for love, the second time I married for money — neither one was any good. 🙂

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