January12012

Kleptoparasitism, word of the year…

The definition from the Wikipedia:

Kleptoparasitism (literally, parasitism by theft) is a form of feeding in which one animal takes prey or other food from another that has caught, collected, or otherwise prepared the food, including stored food (as in the case of cuckoo bees, which lay their eggs on the pollen masses made by other bees). The term is also used to describe the stealing of nest material or other inanimate objects from one animal by another.

And example of kleptoparasitism drawn from Salon’s The theft of the American pension

As Ellen E. Schultz, an investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, reveals in her new book, “Retirement Heist,” it wasn’t the dire economy that led these companies to plunder their own employees’ earnings, it was greed. Over the last decade, some of the biggest companies — including Bank of America, IBM, General Motors, GE and even the NFL — found loopholes, abused ambiguous regulations and used litigation to turn their employees’ hard-earned retirement funds into profits, and in some cases, executive compensation. Schultz’s book offers a relentlessly infuriating look at the mechanisms they used to get away with it. 

Another example drawn from Robert Reich’s Restore the Basic Bargain:

That was then. Now, Ford Motor Company is paying its new hires half what it paid new employees a few years ago.

The basic bargain is over – not only at Ford but all over the American economy. New data from the Commerce Department shows employee pay is now down to the smallest share of the economy since the government began collecting wage and salary data in 1929.

Meanwhile, corporate profits now constitute the largest share of the economy since 1929.

And yet another from Forbes’s It’s Getting Harder to Defend Goldman Sachs:

Goldman had two choices: discontinue the sale of junk-mortgage securities and alerting the government, media, public, their clients, and investors; or, keep it a secret, sell off junk-mortgage securities to investors, profit from the inevitable bursting of the bubble, and steal and even front-run part of Paulson’s trade.

Here’s the most basic analogy of guilt: Picture Goldman as a used car salesman. When it learned it had an inventory of lemons, rather than return those lemons to the manufacturers (lemon law in most states), it put those cars on promotion with very aggressive sales tactics.

Before the unsuspecting and trusting customer bought the lemon and drove off with it, Goldman purchased “protection” — life and auto insurance policies on the driver that were set to profit when the lemon crashed and burned. Clearly, Goldman’s short (protection) trade was connected to clearing out their long trades (selling the lemons), so ill-gotten profits on all these transactions must be returned with penalties too.

You know I could go on. I’ve got an Instapaper account filled to bursting with articles demonstrating kleptoparasitism. But you get the idea. And if your blood is not boiling now, it never will. 

So let me instead quit this post with a look not backwards at 2011, but forward to a temper and passion that may birth 2012’s word of the year. The quotes below are drawn from Michael Thomas’s The Big Lie. Should just some of this come to flare and fire, it will be a very happy year indeed for all of us:

As 2011 slithers to its end, none of the major problems that led to the crisis point three years ago have really been solved. Bank balance sheets still reek. Europe day by day becomes a financial black hole, with matter from the periphery being sucked toward the center until the vortex itself collapses. The Street and its ministries of propaganda have fallen back on a Big Lie as old as capitalism itself: that all that has gone wrong has been government’s fault. This time, however, I don’t think the argument that “Washington ate my homework” is going to work. This time, a firestorm is going to explode about the Street’s head—and about time, too.

This time, I fear, the public anger will not be deflected. Confessions, not false, will be exacted. Occupy Wall Street has set the snowball rolling; you may not think much of OWS—I have my own reservations, although none are philosophical or moral—but it has made America aware of a sinister, usurious process by which wealth has systematically been funneled into fewer and fewer hands. A process in which Washington played a useful supporting role, but no more than that.

Over the next year, I expect the “what” will give way to the “how” in the broad electorate’s comprehension of the financial situation. The 99 percent must learn to differentiate the bloodsuckers and rent-extractors from those in the 1 percent who make the world a better, more just place to live. Once people realize how Wall Street made its pile, understand how financiers get rich, what it is that they actually do, the time will become ripe for someone to gather the spreading ripples of anger and perplexity into a focused tsunami of retribution. To make the bastards pay, properly, for the grief and woe they have caused. Perhaps not to the extent proposed by H. L. Mencken, who wrote that when a bank fails, the first order of business should be to hang its board of directors, but in a manner in which the pain is proportionate to the collateral damage. Possibly an excess-profits tax retroactive to 2007, or some form of “Tobin tax” on transactions, or a wealth tax. The era of money for nothing will be over.

But it won’t just end with taxes. When the great day comes, Wall Street will pray for another Pecora, because compared with the rough beast now beginning to strain at the leash, Pecora will look like Phil Gramm. Humiliation and ridicule, even financial penalties, will be the least of the Street’s tribulations. There will be prosecutions and show trials. There will be violence, mark my words. Houses burnt, property defaced. I just hope that this time the mob targets the right people in Wall Street and in Washington. (How does a right-thinking Christian go about asking Santa for Mitch McConnell’s head under the Christmas tree?) There will be kleptocrats who threaten to take themselves elsewhere if their demands on jurisdictions and tax breaks aren’t met, and I say let ’em go!

"Retribution" in 2012!

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