Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
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Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Two Sides Worlds Apart Or Just Plain Stubbornness? ... One Day More ...


Recently on a conservative blog site (Stand Up For America), I commented (you have to search for Charlie Stella on the site) on how I’d like to see those responsible for the bailouts(without protecting American workers) either put away for life or lined up in front of a firing squad. I was thinking myself a bit of a fascist (exaggerating ... somewhat). Another commentator replied with this:

Just wanting to kill the SOB’s does not make you a fascist. Might actually make you a patriot. Would tar and feathering do instead followed by exile to Coventry where they only have each other to deal with?

To which I responded: That works for me too. I’m still baffled how this country didn’t rise up in revolution (both sides of the political aisles) after what this government did with those bailouts. Not a single protection for workers and no stipulations for how that money was to be used, etc. They just gave it away and tried to impose a sense of panic on all of us (had to be done quickly, etc.).

Nah, now that I wrote that out, shoot the SOBs …

Another commentator responded with this: They tried. It was called a Tea Party. And the powers on the Left immediately attacked, denigrated and characterized it as a bunch of racist conservative nutjobs out to destroy the presidency of the first black messiah.

Is it really a wonder that people keep their heads down in this day and age?

The “liberals” lost a tremendous opportunity when they decided to jump on the progressive’s trashing of the tea party.

Both conservative views (if you look beyond the dramatics of “first black messiah”) make a good point; there was an opportunity for Americans to rally together for a change and turn their backs on the ideology of political parties for the benefit of the whole (or the greater good, for lack of a better term, although some of my conservative friends despise that term). The point being: Those on the far right were fed up by the bailouts (what they saw as corporatism run amok) while those on the left followed their choice of President’s lead (who followed the President before him) that those banks, etc., were “too big to fail.” What those on the left neglected to demand was protection for their own numbers (and everybody else not on the board of Directors of Goldman Sachs, et al). The American worker took the greatest beating of my time when this government bailed out Wall Street without protecting those they took the money to do so with.

This government permitted the loan seekers to provide the terms of the loan (try doing that the next time you need a few bucks from those same banks). This government demanded nothing of the banks it gave our money to, whether it was in the form of not rewarding themselves with bonuses (for bankrupting their companies), rescinding outsourced American jobs, calling back workers it had laid off, actually making it a prerequisite that “X” amount of those bailed out dollars be funneled back into the economy in the form of low interest loans, etc. Then it went one further and rather than permit American workers to borrow from their own 401K’s (that had been severely diminished by the incompetence and greed of the same bailed out banks) for the sake of saving their homes without penalty, it permitted the same bailed out banks a $38 billion tax credit (for the rich).

My conservative friend from the right was right ... what an opportunity for all Americans to come together and demand CHANGE WE REALLY CAN BELIEVE IN. Now, I’m sure there would’ve been disagreement on what next measures to take, but the fact nothing happened and we all sat back and waited for the miracle of the bailouts to grace us with an economic recovery (we’re still waiting for it) is disheartening (to say the least). It was more than taxation without representation. It was out and out robbery.

Personally, I have no problem with being taxed, so long as the revenue goes to worthy causes, but I do not include the coffers of Goldman Sachs in any category of worthy causes. Others have greater issue with taxes they feel are abuses of power by career politicians who have cut unholy deals with corporate powerbrokers. There they make another good point; Corporate America rules the roost with zero accountability. The fact any government seems to inflate itself with an ever expanding bureaucracy isn’t a great service either, but here it is more a matter of policing the waste than doing away with the good intentions of some government programs. Merely firing those we find incompetent verging on corrupt is just not enough of a consequence to keep others from doing the same (especially those in the positions of government regulators). The people at the SEC watching porn instead of doing their jobs should’ve been jailed. The people at Goldman Sachs, et al who swindled the economy should’ve been jailed (certainly not rewarded). The people at the MSM responsible for letting BP write its own inspection reports should be in federal prisons not sending their resumes out.

This government can work for all of us. It has in the past. It cannot, however, continue to be held unaccountable if we expect a better performance from it. The time for the two party system has come and gone. So long as we reward the same two parties (back and forth over and over again) that put us in the position we’re in today, whether it’s from fear of the other side gaining control or not, we all lose.

Which is why I find it amazing that those who call themselves “hard core leftist(s)” continue to support a Democratic Party (that continues to ignore the left) in any way shape or form (although it is ALWAYS from fear of the Republicans) and why I find it equally amazing that those who call themselves “conservatives” continue to vote for Republicans (who continue to ignore a true free market and reward corporatism across the board--an apology to BP immediately comes to mind) in any way shape or form (although it is ALWAYS from fear of the Democrats).

How absurd is that?

Right now I’m reading a terrific historical account of the real estate market in the 1950-60’s as told by the daughter of a liberal lawyer who spoke up for blacks being victimized (robbed blind) by real estate speculators permitted to sell houses on a contract basis (“contract selling”).

FAMILY PROPERTIES: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, by Beryl Satter

The practices were appalling (and backed by the laws of the city and state for the perpetuation of strictly white neighborhoods). Speculators were permitted to buy homes for as little as $3,500, then flip them to blacks seeking homes of their own for 2-300% markup with very little money down but with caveats (written by the speculators themselves--sound familiar?) that permitted the sellers to evict the new home owners for missing a single payment. Blacks denied mortgages (and they all were denied mortgages) were forced to buy homes under these contract leases that permitted speculators to triple the cost of a home they bought a week ago and issue usurious terms that precluded the vast majority of new home owners from keeping their homes for very long. The author’s father (Mark Satter) fought for the blacks being victimized by speculators, banks, the state laws, Chicago University, et al. A good man relentlessly fighting a good cause met frustration after frustration as the dirty politics of Chicago “legally” denied blacks a fair deal.

Did I mention this was a Democratic city? Things have come a long way since ... or have they? The despicable real estate red lining/zoning practices of Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s isn’t so much different from what Wall Street pulled off with those bailouts. In one case an entire race was singled out (mostly blacks who had moved north from Mississippi to find a better life) to be shamefully victimized. In the latter instance an entire workforce (the American workforce) was robbed by similar speculators.

That is not to marginalize what happened to blacks in Chicago (and other cities) by any means. Rather, it is to point out that nothing much has really changed. We may be a much more integrated society than back then, but we’re also a much bigger target for economic victimization. Wall Street viewed us (all) as one big sucker to profit from ... and they took us to the cleaners with our blessing.

How absurd it that?

From a New York Times book review of Ms. Satter’s intriguing book: In cities like Chicago, redlining forced a vast majority of black homeowners and tenants into the vulnerable world of “contract selling,” in which unscrupulous speculators dictated onerous terms that often led to default and social pathology, simultaneously reinforcing black stereotypes and white racism. The “lack of equal access to credit,” the author explains, had profound ramifications: “fabulous enrichment for speculative contract sellers and their investors, debt peonage or impoverishment for many black contract buyers and an almost guaranteed decay of the communities in which such sales were concentrated.” Once we recognize the full impact of contract selling, she insists, it becomes clear that “the reason for the decline of so many black urban neighborhoods into slums was not the absence of resources but rather the riches that could be drawn from the seemingly poor vein of aged and decrepit housing and hard-pressed but hard-working and ambitious African-Americans.”

Much of the current housing crisis can be blamed on those who took on mortgages they had no business going near ... but ... who made those loans available? Do the speculators backing the industry have no responsibility? We bought a house for $272,000 but were offered $770,000 in mortgage money. Obviously, we ignored it. But how could we even be offered that much money? Wasn’t that a bit of a gamble on the bank’s end?

As it turns out, not in the least, because the big money behind the big money just shrugged it off, made a few phone calls and their representatives in government (The Republican and Democratic Parties) took those lost monies from us to give back to them.

What a deal! If only Mr. Satter were here today to remind OUR current government (both parties) of the fiduciary relationship they should have for those they're supposed to represent!

American workers lost jobs, homes, retirement monies and their dignity. Some set up tent cities in Sacramento, California and elsewhere. CEO’s and their ilk rewarded themselves with RECORD bonus money (for bankrupting the county), outsourcing continues, unemployment remains intolerable and all that money they promised to return to the economy in the form of loans was held tight. They were so arrogant about their victory, a chosen few from Goldman Sachs appeared at the dog and pony show up on Capitol Hill and smirked and scoffed at the “grilling” we were supposed to feel somehow vindicated by.

And in two months the vast majority of us will go to the polls and vote one of two parties, both of which were completely complicit in the scam that was the Wall Street bailouts.

And how absurd is that?

So, whether you’re on the right or the left, hope for one day more (before the storm) that will send the representatives of both major parties to the back of the unemployment line they so richly deserve to be standing on.