Monday, September 22, 2014

Profits for the Privileged - Sluggish Recovery for the 99% - Treasury Dept. Targets Inversion

Inversion as defined by the White House Website (Image - White
Overall it was a pretty crappy day for Wall Street; and not just because the Dow, S&P 500 and NASDAQ were all off.

Perhaps it was a reaction to the 1,000-plus activists who were camped out at the famous statue of the bull calling attention to corporate America's role in blocking government action to slow climate change.

It got a bit ugly when many protesters tried to push past a barricade at Wall Street and Broadway and the NYPD ended up arresting 100 people; mostly for disorderly conduct.

The NYPD has yet to arrest anyone for the sub-prime mortgage crisis which originated on Wall Street and nearly collapsed the US economy, but they DID arrest a protester wearing a polar bear suit today.

While economic numbers and steady but tepid monthly job gains signal an ongoing US economic recovery, it's clearly an uneven one for most Americans. At the end of the day, what does a strong GDP really mean for the bulk of Americans living paycheck to paycheck?

The nation's wealthiest households have already recovered the bulk of any financial losses suffered during the Great Recession and last week's IPO for the Chinese Web giant Alibaba helps illustrate why.

While it was technically a "public" offering of stock (intended to raise capital for the company), only large institutional investors, mutual funds and a select group of connected high net-worth individuals were able to purchase the stock at the initial price of $68 a share.

As Judd Legum's article points out, by the time the average investor was able to purchase the stock, the price had shot up to $92.70 a share, enabling a select and privileged group of investors to take a healthy 36% profit while Alibaba raked in over $21 billion in capital. Not bad for a day's "work".

If that sounds kinda sketchy it's because it is - the game is not only afoot, it's rigged from every possible angle. In his latest book "Flash Boys" author Michael Lewis' illustrates how technology makes it easier. Washington Post columnist Stephen Pearlstein sums up the book perfectly:

"Lewis reveals how a new crop of investment firms has conspired with the big banks and the stock exchanges to use high-speed computers and complex software algorithms to skim pennies from the real investors who provide equity capital to the economy."

Too bad the trigger-happy Ferguson police couldn't go after those crooks in pricey suits. (If they shot an unarmed teenager just for walking along the street, think how fast they could discourage hi-speed traders.)

Let's not forget the LIBOR scandal (London Interbank Offered Rate), which, according to MIT professor of finance Lawrence Lo, completely dwarfs any other financial scandal in history.

But take, heart. Despite these monumentally complex schemes to skim trillions of dollars from average people for which no one ever seems to go to jail, there is hope.

Today President Obama announced that the Treasury Department will take action to make it more difficult for US corporations to pretend they're not actually US corporations by using inversion; a totally sketchy Mitt Romney-esque tax maneuver where American companies purchase foreign companies then claim their "new" company is headquartered outside the US in order to avoid paying the 35% tax rate.

Is this going to change the growing inequality in this nation? No, but at least it can make it harder for corporations to increase their profit margins by shifting the tax burden onto middle-class Americans.

I applaud the Obama administration for at least taking some kind of action. Much more meaningful and comprehensive changes could be made if not for that fact that THE most unproductive Congress in US history has pledged to do nothing at all - and oppose virtually anything the President proposes.

Except of course for authorizing military action.

Even THEY got behind the President when it comes to authorizing air strikes, selling billions of dollars worth of weapons to foreign nations and perpetuating the "War on Terror" (year 16??) by killing Islamic extremists who worship violence and death rather than a Supreme Being.


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