Whitman and Goldman should be rich fodder for Democrats

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Democrats are now benefiting from the confluence of the public’s outrage over reckless self-dealing on Wall Street, debate over a Democratic bill to regulate such casino-style financial practices, and prosecution of Goldman Sachs for profiting from an economic collapse it helped cause. But the bigger question is whether top Democrats are willing to make the sustained case that it’s the rich who have screwed over the vast majority of Americans, and it’s time to recover that plundered wealth to deal with pressing problems like poverty, global warming, and infrastructure needs.

Central to that question is Meg Whitman, the Republican gubernatorial candidate who should be a poster child for a campaign against the predatory rich, whose increasing wealth has come at the expense of the working class and public institutions. As the Sacramento Bee reports today, Whitman is a former Goldman Sachs board member who profited from insider trading deals that are now illegal. And now she’s using her ridiculously over-inflated net worth to try to buy the governor’s office with unprecedented spending, something that should profoundly offend our basic democratic values.

Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jerry Brown and some union officials have tried to highlight Whitman’s extensive Wall Street connections, but Brown has been way too tepid. Maybe that’s because he has his own Goldman Sachs ties, as the Los Angeles Times reported this week, although they pale in comparison to Whitman’s, which continue to this day and help pay for her takeover of California airways with her deceptive yet poll-tested propaganda.

As we wrote in our endorsement of Brown this week, it’s frustrating that Brown has been so unwilling to go after the rich, whether it be raising income taxes on millionaires (who have weathered the Great Recession far better than working stiffs) or letting commercial property be assessed at fair market value (since Prop. 13 passed, corporations that used to pay about two-thirds of the property taxes in California now pay about one-third, with individual property owners now paying two-thirds).

This is fertile ground for some long-overdue class warfare on behalf of the vast majority of people whose livelihoods have been threatened by the greedy, self-dealing rich. Anger at Wall Street for destroying the economy and then being bailed out by the federal government cuts across traditional ideological lines. It is felt by progressives, by conservative members of the Tea Party movement, and even by many political moderates.

At this point, few people trust the Democratic Party to lead the way toward a real accounting for the financial collapse, a recovery of the money from those who profited from the disaster, and an application of that money toward the most pressing public problems.

That’s a shame, but it’s also a real opportunity for a Democrat-led populist movement that unites disaffected factions on the left and right. After all, the problem only lies with about the richest 5 percent of Americans, those who have used elaborate financial ruses and tax shelters to hoard the wealth this country needs, even as the rest of us have lost financial ground. If there is any real democracy left in this country, it shouldn’t be that difficult for 95 percent of Americans to act in their own best interests.

After all, just this afternoon, even the most stubborn Republican leaders relented on allowing debate on the Democrats’ financial regulatory legislation, bowing to the very political pressures that I’m talking about. But if the Democrats want to try to regain their status as the party of the people, and begin to finally deal with this country’s long-neglected needs, they’ll need to see this as just the first small step down a path they should have taken decades ago.

Comments

At least you come right out and say it.

Your idea that the poorest 95% of the population should vote to help themselves to the wealth of the 5% who are rich would not be out of place in a Marxist manifesto.

Too bad America doesn't do class warfare. We left that behind in Europe.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Apr. 28, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

everyone else is not filled with the same unhealthy level of rage that he is.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 29, 2010 @ 9:19 am

Are you really suggesting a redistribution of other people's wealth or are you merely suggesting that criminals ought to be prosecuted and the victims compensated?

Posted by Sacramento on Apr. 29, 2010 @ 9:48 am

Yes, I'm really suggesting a redistribution of the richest people's wealth, a notion that didn't used to be such a radical idea in this country. Progressive taxation has long been accepted as the only way of balancing out capitalism's inherent inequities. As recently as the 1950s, the tax rate on income over a million dollars was 90 percent because it was widely understood that the pooling of wealth by a small fraction of Americans was bad for the country. The actions of Goldman's Fabrice Tourre are simply a less sophisticated and more egregious example of what has become standard practice on Wall Street: executives enriching themselves and their most favored clients at the expense of the larger economy and its workers. And the "victims" that need to be compensated for this shameful system are those I mentioned in this piece: the vast majority of Americans, as well as the neglected infrastructure of the country and a planet that has been dangerously altered by Wall Street's hyperactivity. If we dismiss the systemic problems that destroyed our economy as simply the crimes of a few bad apples and fail to fundamentally change the motivations on Wall Street then our future will be filled with more rotten apples than we can count.

 

Steven T. Jones

Posted by steven on Apr. 29, 2010 @ 10:37 am

Be careful, you'll frighten someone. Probably not those at the top, but those that aspire to do as Fabrice Tourre has done. I think what you are really getting at is that everyone should pay their fair share and that our system shouldn't reward criminals. Unfortunately, there are those that have fallen through the cracks of our educational system that will always sympathize with the oppressor, somehow deluding themselves into thinking that they all could be there if they just work hard enough. Perhaps, they'd have better luck winning the lottery?

Posted by Sacramento on Apr. 29, 2010 @ 11:31 am

We have progressive taxation in the USA already.

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 29, 2010 @ 11:47 am

Actually, Glen, the modern U.S. tax system is the least progressive that it's been since income taxes were first instituted, and far less progressive than in Europe or most of the industrialized world, which is why we have greater disparities in wealth then any of the G8 countries, a disproportionate share of the world's wealthiest individuals, high incarceration and poverty rates, and a lack of high-speed rail and other modern infrastrucuture. That what the real world really looks like these days.

Posted by steven on Apr. 29, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

It's just not "progressive" enough for you then?

You should come out and say that its not progressive enough, instead of loading all your language to make it seem as if you think we have a near flat tax. Your writing is such studied propaganda it makes me think I know how a reader of Pravda must have thought.

And of course all that shit about Europe and other countries again.

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 29, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

I cannot believe that people are so gulliable that they are actually considering Moonbeam for another term to screw up California and it's budget. Anyone who takes an objective look at Whitman should also do the same with Brown. Did any of you actually look at this mans legacy when he was govener? Did anyone look at the entitlement programs and public employee union deals he was handing out when he was in power?
Last time I looked our great state is in serious financial problems that is causing budget shortfalls curtailing education and general services, but the unions are still reaping benefits unmatched by their private industry counterparts. Brown's track record of taxpayer giveaways to the unions and unnecessary entitlement programs is a matter of public record. It is annoying we see so may one sided articles because "Brown" is a democrat and "Whitman" is a republican. Whitman has issues and they MAY affect her performance in the mansion; but Brown has a track record of gross mismanagement and public announcements of programs that are detrimental to California it its current economic state.
Vote Whitman.... better than Brown. Read, research, become educated, and make the right choice. California can become a great state once again; but NOT with Moonbeam at the helm.

Posted by Guest on May. 02, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

We are quite familiar with Brown's record as governor, Oakland mayor, and attorney general, as we mention in our endorsements. And while we're not completely happy with him, he is someone who has experience in the job he's seeking and an interest in governance, unlike Whitman, who hasn't bothered to even vote over a period of decades and has yet to offer any prescriptions for getting the state out of this mess. In fact, her ridiculous pledge to cut taxes in a state that has a failing infrastructure and severely underfunded schools in a recipe for disaster and a sign of real hostility to the public sector that she seeks to lead. We've seen how that works, with anti-government conservatives Arnold Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush, who created messes that will need to be cleaned up and paid for by generations to come. And Whitman has shown every sign of being even worse. Anyone who votes to let her buy this office is a fool.

Posted by steven on May. 05, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

What I see is Mark-ism is being confused with socialism. The police, Fire, and government representatives, is a part of a social society.

Posted by Jerry Jarvis on May. 06, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but the democrats and republicans want the same thing: the transfer of wealth, but the directions are 180 degrees different. The democrats want to go from the wealthy to the masses and the republicans want to go from the masses to the wealthy. The former has been discussed at length, but I've not heard any real discussion of the latter. In todays economic world, I feel the the wealthy consider the masses as fodder for their profit and wealth generation.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2010 @ 12:27 pm