Dispatches from the Class War

In recent years, surging crude prices have led to record profits for the major oil companies. A report by the Congressional Research Service last year said the top five major integrated companies — Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC, Chevron and ConocoPhillips — generated more than $100 billion in profits on nearly $1.5 trillion of revenue in 2007.

Despite a year-long global economic meltdown that only got worse as the year wore on, the world’s 25 most successful hedge fund managers raked in a total of $11.6 billion in 2008 – their third best haul this decade. The secret to their success? Well, some of it is a secret. But if you guessed big bets against banks and the housing market you’d be on the right track.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Defense contractors Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) and General Dynamics Corp’s (GD.N) quarterly earnings beat Wall Street forecasts, showing few signs that U.S. defense spending will slow, despite the uncertainty of a new administration and a tight federal budget.

The defense unit of Boeing Co (BA.N) also posted higher quarterly profit on Wednesday, partly offsetting the effects of a six-week strike at its commercial plane plants, which dragged down its overall quarterly profit.

“We’re faced with two disasters-soaring food prices leaving millions hungry every year and an ailing economy. The challenges are overwhelming, but we have to do much more than send emergency food aid to countries facing scarcity,” Kerry said in a statement.

We live in a world where nearly one billion people suffer from chronic food insecurity,” Senator Richard Lugar, the panel’s ranking Republican, added,. “Hungry people are desperate people, and desperation often sows the seeds of conflict and extremism.”

The Food Bank for New York, which has been handing out groceries to poor New Yorkers for 25 years, reports that things are getting bad out there. The number of locals who say they have trouble paying for food has gone up 26 percent in the past recession year — from 3.1 to 4 million, or about 48 percent of New Yorkers (!).

The increase in food poverty is also impressive when tracked from 2003, when Food Bank started recording it. Then it was 2 million people — we’ve doubled that in five years.

LONDON: A British minister handling preparations for the upcoming Group of 20 summit said that leaders risk fueling public dissent and dire consequences for the developing world – if they fail to agree on clear action to tackle the global downturn.

Mark Malloch Brown told The Associated Press that vague commitments won’t suffice when leaders from the world’s major and emerging economies meet in London next week to discuss steps to address the crisis.

To calm a feverish political atmosphere, which has sparked protests across Europe and unrest in Africa, lawmakers must offer clear plans, said the British foreign minister.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The number of people filing initial claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, while those filing continuing claims hit an all-time high for the ninth straight week, according to a government report released Thursday.

In the week ended March 21, a total of 652,000 people filed initial jobless claims, up 8,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 644,000, the Labor Department reported.

March 26 (Bloomberg) — Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, cited fiscal responsibility when he turned down about $98 million in unemployment aid that was part of President Barack Obama’s $787 billion federal stimulus package.

That doesn’t make sense to Clarence Hawkins, the mayor of Bastrop, Louisiana. An International Paper Co. mill closed in November as pulp demand fell worldwide, leaving the town without one of its biggest employers.

“Give me something now,” said Hawkins, a Democrat whose city of 12,500 lost more than 400 jobs. “Help me right now. I need to survive today.”

African Americans are far more likely than whites to be poor, out of work or in jail, and are “hurting worse” in the floundering US economy, a report published Wednesday showed.

“Ironically, even as an African American man holds the highest office the country, African Americans remain twice as likely as whites to be unemployed, three times more likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be incarcerated,” the State of Black America report said.

Income ladder a tough climb for U.S. worker By Cynthia Tucker

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It took a lot to drive average Americans into a torrent of populist outrage, ready to tar and feather executives of American International Group and other greedy financiers who brought the world economy to the brink of collapse and then dared to demand outrageous compensation for their work.

Given that regular stiffs have been struggling for decades, it’s a wonder that anger took so long to build.

While Wall Street bonuses may have reached the apex of absurdity in the last decade or so, CEO compensation has been out of whack for much longer than that. In 1965, CEOs earned 24 times the pay of the average worker; by 2007, the factor was 275 times. Even CEOs who wrecked their companies were rewarded lavishly when they left.

Meanwhile, most workers didn’t share in the wealth produced by productivity gains in the 1990s. Their health care costs soared; their unions weakened; class divisions hardened. These days, it’s not as easy for young men and women to rise above their parents’ means as popular mythology suggests.

We have all grown SO used to these disparities that we have ceased to ask why they exist. It is time to start asking again.


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  2. Have we really ceased to ask why these disparities exist?  I don’t think so — I think we know WHY!  The real question is how to swing the pendulum the other way!

    Of interest!  British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in a TIME article notes, among many aspects,

    . . . .There’s popular pressure for punishing people responsible for this mess. How important do you think it is to restore accountability?

    What I find really interesting about the public response is that the values that people hold to be important – like working hard and taking responsibility – are the values that not only underlie a good society but are necessary for a good economy as well. People have felt for some time that you’ve got this vast global process at work, and somehow the rules that govern [it] have got different from the rules you practice in your everyday life. [But] the rules that make for a successful community are also now necessary for the banking system. We have to build our banking system for the future around stronger principles of accountability and transparency and integrity and sound practices. Americans are shocked by what they see happening on Wall Street. People in Britain look at what happened with RBS [Royal Bank of Scotland] or HBOS and are angered by what they would call irresponsible risk-taking and excessively irresponsible behavior. But what people want more than anything else is that these banks and institutions work to the principles and values that they believe are important. (See 25 people to blame for the financial crisis.) . . . .

    [emphasis mine as to “What I find . . .” only]

    Here is the list of the most guilty!  Look it over, you can click on each name and see some history about each!  Note who has the most votes!

    • MO Blue on March 26, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    IIRC that has been one of the basic responses when these disparities have been questioned in the past.

    The majority of politicians in both parties have promoted policies that not only accept but encourage unbridled greed for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.

    As long as we, the people, are willing to vote for these politicians because they are on OUR TEAM or because THEY ARE NOT AS BAD AS THE OTHER GUY we will continue to get more of the same.

    • BobbyK on March 27, 2009 at 7:35 am

    are whining about threatening emails every time they testify. How long before you figure it’s proven to be a scam? That they actually wrote the worst of the threatening emails to themselves.

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