The circle of friends.

14 Dec

Okie-dokie.  Here’s our democracy now.  An article from the Telegraph:

Eric Schmidt declines Obama cabinet post
Google chairman Eric Schmidt has publicly declined to join the Obama administration in the new year after a rumoured offer for the post of Treasury Secretary.

Mr Schmidt, 57, was offered the job of Treasury or Commerce Secretary or a new “Secretary of Business” slot, according to the Washington Examiner.

An anonymous strategist for the Democrats told the newspaper: “Nobody’s better positioned for a Cabinet job, if he wants one.”  [Teri’s note: you may want to take stock of the fact that this anonymous strategist uses the words ‘better positioned’ rather than ‘well-qualified’.]

Mr Schmidt’s rebuttal was swift, however, as he told the Wall Street Journal in an interview yesterday: “I said last time and I’ve said again that Google is my home. I have no interest in working for the federal government”.

Mr Schmidt played in a key role in the re-election of President Barack Obama last month, helping to oversee Google’s $700,000 donation to his campaign.

Since Mr Obama took up the US presidency in 2008, he and Mr Schmidt have maintained a close relationship, appearing together at the company’s Montain View, California headquarters in 2007.

Google’s Super PAC campaign committee gave $2.1 million to the Democrats and $715,000 to Republican candidates this year.

Mr Schmidt also helped to promote Obama’s jobs bill in 2011 when the President asked Congress for a new round of stimulus spending and was faced with deadlock after Republicans rejected key elements of the plans.

The Google CEO has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry, and has worked for the search engine giant since 2001.

The news comes as Anna Wintour, the Editor-in-Chief of US Vogue, was announced as a possible candidate for the post of US ambassador to the UK or France.

Wintour co-hosted a $40,000 a head event in June at actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s home, and in August hosted a Connecticut dinner that cost $35,800 per person at movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s house. By the end of the campaign she was one of Mr Obama’s top ten fundraisers.

And what of this woman Obama wants to be our ambassador to France or England?

Anna Wintour, OBE (born 3 November 1949) is the English-born editor-in-chief of American Vogue, a position she has held since 1988. With her trademark pageboy bob haircut and sunglasses, Wintour has become an institution throughout the fashion world, widely praised for her eye for fashion trends and her support for younger designers. Her reportedly aloof and demanding personality has earned her the nickname “Nuclear Wintour”.[…]

Wintour has been a supporter of the Democratic Party going back, prominently, to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate run and John Kerry’s 2004 presidential run and serving Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential runs as a “bundler” of contributions. In 2008 and 2012, she co-hosted fundraisers with Sarah Jessica Parker, the latter being a 50-person, $40,000-a-plate dinner at Parker’s West Village town house with Meryl Streep, Michael Kors, and Trey Laird, an advertising executive, among the attendees. She has also teamed with Calvin Klein and Harvey Weinstein on fundraisers during Obama’s first term and Donna Karan has been amongst the attendees.

What do these two people have in common?

1) Neither is qualified, in the least, for the positions they are being asked by the President of the United States to fill.  Being the CEO of a income- and asset-hiding tax-shirking company does not qualify one to be the Treasury Secretary.  And I don’t care if they mean the Secretary of the Treasury (Timmeh Geithner’s spot – although it was certainly enough to get Timmeh in) or the US Treasurer (a different office).  Being a fashion mogul does not make one a diplomat.  (No doubt she is cold enough to be a US diplomat in these days, however, when the basic requirements for diplomacy are being able to laugh at the torture and assassinations of others, and holding the belief that threatening and sanctioning other countries is the key to diplomacy.  Wintour was the model for “The Devil Wears Prada”, after all.)  Did I have to point that out?  Well, okay, not to you perhaps, but most Americans, sadly…..

2) Both are rich.  Very.

3) Both gave enormous sums of money to Obama and the Democratic Party, which is apparently enough to overlook item number 1.

4) The positions are being offered purely as thank you gifts to some very wealthy donors and make a joke out of the idea of “QUALIFIED NOMINEES”.

This same circle of friends, by the way, are the people who are advising Obama on the “fiscal cliff” negotiations – at his invitation.

Obama, CEOs join forces in budget-cutting campaign
By Patrick Martin 
14 December 2012

In coordinated statements this week, the Obama White House and leading representatives of American big business announced their support for an agreement that would combine minor increases in taxes on the wealthy with sweeping cuts in the entitlement programs on which tens of millions of elderly, retired and disabled people depend.

Obama signaled the intensification of the effort to use the concocted emergency of the “fiscal cliff” to justify historic cuts in entitlement programs, in an interview with Barbara Walters for the ABC News program 20/20. The interview will be broadcast Friday night, but key quotes were made public by ABC on Tuesday evening.

On December 31, the tax cuts first enacted under the Bush administration in 2001 will expire. The Obama administration’s position is to extend the tax cuts for individuals making under $200,000 a year and families making under $250,000, while allowing the tax cuts to expire for those above that level.

The result would be a modest increase in the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, restoring the tax rate that prevailed in the 1990s, but well below the rates levied under the Reagan administration, let alone in the 1950s and 1960s, when the top income tax rate approached 90 percent.

Obama told his ABC interviewer he expected to reach an agreement with the leadership of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on extending most of the Bush tax cuts. “I’m pretty confident that Republicans would not hold middle-class taxes hostage to trying to protect tax cuts for high-income individuals,” he said.

He added, “If the Republicans can move on that then we are prepared to do some tough things on the spending side.Asked by Walters if this would include raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, Obama indicated he was willing to consider it, voicing only the reservation that such a change wouldn’t cut enough from the federal deficit.

“When you look at the evidence it’s not clear that it actually saves a lot of money,” he said. “But what I’ve said is let’s look at every avenue, because what is true is we need to strengthen Social Security, we need to strengthen Medicare for future generations, the current path is not sustainable because we’ve got an aging population and health care costs are shooting up so quickly.”

In the Orwellian discourse that now pervades official Washington, “strengthening” a social program means not obtaining the resources necessary to sustain it, but slashing benefits or eligibility to the level set by increasingly inadequate funding. No big business politician, of course, suggests “strengthening” the CIA or Pentagon in that fashion.

The pace of discussions in Washington has picked up since a closed door, one-on-one meeting between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner December 9. The following day, the White House further reduced its proposal for total tax increases, from $1.6 trillion over ten years to $1.4 trillion, although Boehner has not budged on his initial offer of $800 billion. Several congressional Democrats said they were prepared to go as low as $1.2 trillion or even $1 trillion to reach a bipartisan deal.

The tax increases would be dwarfed by the spending cuts, which will make up between two-thirds and three-quarters of a deficit-reduction package totaling $4 trillion over ten years.

White House press secretary Jay Carney emphasized that the Obama administration had only one bottom-line demand, a token rate increase for the wealthy, and would not draw the line against any of the spending cuts demanded by the Republicans.  “There is a deal out there that’s possible, and we do believe that the parameters of a compromise are pretty clear,” Carney said Tuesday. “What is required is agreement by Republicans to some specific revenues that includes raising rates on the highest earners.”

A powerful group of corporate executives publicly sided with the Obama administration’s position in the ongoing negotiations with House Republicans.

The Business Roundtable, headed by former Michigan Republican Governor John Engler, issued a statement Tuesday dropping its opposition to tax rate increases for the wealthiest Americans, provided this was combined with significant cuts in entitlement programs. “We now feel that the only compromise after the election that’s possible is one … of comprehensive and meaningful tax and entitlement reforms,” said Engler.

Some 160 corporate CEOs signed the statement calling for tax increases and spending cuts, including many who had publicly endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and given significant amounts to his campaign. Among the signers were David Cote of Honeywell, Rex Tillerson of Exxon, Douglas Oberhelman of Caterpillar, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical, Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric and Alexander Cutler of Eaton.

Groups of financiers visited the White House for consultations, including a half dozen bankers December 10, among them representatives of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. A group of hedge fund managers met Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett December 12, while utility executives met with Gene Sperling, head of the National Economic Council, the same day. The Obama administration has proposed an overhaul of corporate taxes next year, including a reduction in the corporate income tax rate to no more than 25 percent. […]

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Obama “has been quietly sounding out Democratic leaders about spending-cut options,” noting, “Obama has said he’s willing to make decisions Democrats will find difficult if Republicans will bend on tax rates…”

Among the measures discussed, all included in the tentative deal struck between Obama and Boehner in July 2011, which ultimately collapsed, are raising the age of eligibility for Medicare, and reducing cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other government-funded retirement and disability benefits, which would cut $113 billion and $200 billion respectively over the next ten years.

Other measures are undoubtedly under discussion in the back-channel talks between the White House and congressional Republicans. Washington Post online columnist Ezra Klein cited Tuesday a comment by right-wing Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who told him, “We’ve had conversations where [President Obama] told me he’ll go much further than anyone believes he’ll go to solve the entitlement problem if he can get the compromise.”

The measures under discussion in Washington are both reactionary and deeply unpopular. A new McClatchy-Marist poll published Tuesday found that the only option for deficit reduction that had popular support was an increase in taxes on the wealthy, endorsed by more than 60 percent of those polled.

Every other option had majority opposition, in most cases overwhelming, including raising taxes on low and middle-income families (74 percent opposed), raising the eligibility age for Medicare (59 percent opposed), cutting Medicare spending overall (74 percent opposed), cutting spending on Medicaid benefits for the poor (70 percent opposed), reducing the tax deduction for home mortgage interest (67 percent opposed). Remarkably, self-identified Republican voters opposed every one of these proposals, as did self-identified Democrats.

This exemplifies the state of our country now.  The rich own the system and run the show.  They know nothing about the positions or responsibilities they are being asked to fulfill, and are uniquely unqualified to serve.  They have no concept of or concern for the conditions in which most Americans now find themselves living; in fact, they caused the downward spiral themselves, but are nonetheless called upon for “advice”.  You will see, as time drags on, that the same names within this exclusive circle of friends come up more frequently.  It is really a small circle, in the grand scheme of the earth’s population (indeed, even within the population of the US alone); a group of perhaps 500 or 1000 people, incestuously connected via business ties and yacht parties.  We condemn the third world dictatorships for their assignment of buddies to important cabinet and government positions.  We sneer at countries where the advice sought and listened to by the head of the government comes from friends and business pals.  We call the practice “cronyism”.  We call these countries oligarchies.  We call them “banana republics” and “undemocratic”.

And this is who we are.

1 Comment

Posted by on December 14, 2012 in corporatocracy, economy


One response to “The circle of friends.

  1. paxhonu

    December 16, 2012 at 2:24 am

    It’s so true. There are a few hundred or a thousand individuals, their families and business entities, who collectively control every facet of capitalist America today. It’s a quadrillionaires’ party. No policy or law will be upheld against club members, and in fact, new policies and laws are being drafted by and for the insiders quickly and comprehensively just to replace the old ones being violated, Constitution included. This retroactively relieves members of any fear of prosecution.

    We the people? We have no say; no voice whatsoever. But to read the newspapers or watch the news, where we see and hear only the entertainment scripted for us and framed for us, you’d think we’re all happy as shit to go along and get along.

    As if it makes any difference whether Susan Rice intentionally lied about Benghazi or was merely misinformed by the CIA about Benghazi. As if that were the question. That is, of course, the only question being framed for discussion. So the powers and pundits speak of her qualifications as being this school, that contact; and debate the sole potential stain of what she knew and when she knew it; all as if the person and beliefs held by that person were not of any interest to us at all.

    I suspect that the great majority of Americans, if they only knew, would be appalled and sickened by the hateful, murderous, genocidal, anti-empathetic, self-obsessed, America-first, America-only, rabid attitudinal reality of every one of the people in the club; that oh so short list of American psychopaths of consideration for any position of power, wealth, or influence.

    But, of course, most Americans haven’t a clue. Doubtless, a lot of it is laziness and willful ignorance so they don’t have to feel bad about who they are or what “America” is. And with the effective lockdown against the dissemination of any actual information via primary media outlets, it is clearly much easier to remain ignorant in and of America than it is to become informed.

    As an example, Reuters reports that 90% of Americans polled approve of Ben Bernanke’s continuing efforts at the Federal Reserve to lower unemployment. ! ? Would the same public still support ole Ben if they were informed somewhat more accurately that the Fed’s so-called efforts to stem unemployment consist entirely of shifting literally trillions of free, unencumbered dollars to the few, half dozen or so, of the largest American banks; that the total amount of such largesse not only exceeds the American GDP but would be sufficient to completely retire the entire National Debt (not to mention totally dwarf the “fiscal cliff” – a term Ben himself reportedly coined) were that money to have been handed to the government, to the people that is, instead of to a tiny handful of banks.

    The recipient banks are not your community or regional, FDIC regulated, banks and thrifts, but are rather the collection of only the country’s very largest banks, the “too big to fails” that both literally own the (privately held) Federal Reserve and are supposedly “regulated” by it. And nowadays, those major, post-Glass-Steagall, banks don’t circulate the money they are gifted by the Fed, nor do they lend the money widely into the economy, nor do they create or even assist the overwhelming majority of mainstream businesses or jobs. Why should they when they are neither compelled nor incented to do so?

    They instead invest the money in risk-free arbitrage with Treasury Bonds, speculate in and corner commodities markets, acquire additional companies both in and outside of the banking industry, and continue to invest in their family of perpetually healthy corporations, those holding existing monopolies or cartel power in military arms and materiel, fossil fuel and extraction industries, agrobusiness – particularly gmo, big pharma and insurance, big box retail, etc.

    But no new lending down on Main Street. No, the Fed is simply buying (and/or lending against) trillions of dollars of relatively worthless and otherwise illiquid mortgage related bonds, derivatives, and swaps (that reportedly total, globally, over one quadrillion notional dollars of junk paper) that Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, BofA, Citi,, have still on their books; and the Fed is simply pretending that it does so to keep mortgage rates low for consumers.

    However, the agencies (Government Sponsored Entities) that did make a business making mortgages available and affordable for citizenry, Fannie and Freddie, have been taken down (illegally siezed and placed into “conservatorship” by Timmeh et. al.) and are now being run by Treasury not to extend homeownership and broaden the wealth base of the country, but as a captive asset reserve where good mortgage paper from the Fannie and Freddie portfolios is swapped out wholesale for the bad mortgages and mortgage related paper (subprimes, CDO’s, etc.) stuck on the books of the aforementioned banks.

    None of these maneuvers help consumers, the poor, the middle class, or the citizenry at large; nor were they intended to. They do not address unemployment, don’t create one single new job, don’t provide any modicum of wage improvements to any old jobs, nor do they make it easier for the average American to get or keep a home or to get or keep a job.

    They do the opposite. And the Fed is making its small collection of very large banks, their owners and executives, insanely rich. Meanwhile, the laws have been retroactively changed, or selectively non-enforced to forgive their illegal foreclosures and takings. Call it the American Shock Doctrine.

    So, do 90% of Americans approve of this? Why would they? Does it matter? If 90% disapprove, would it matter? Is what the majority of Americans think or believe of any concern whatsoever to the quadrillionaires’ club?

    I think it quite fitting that a fashion editor is now our top choice for a choice diplomatic posting. American diplomacy today is, after all, nothing more than an artless and heartless collection of sanctions, occupations, genocides, wars, and takings. State Department dictates executed by the flying monkeys of the CIA and various mercenary subcontractors and agencies. At the least, the citizenry might be allowed to feel pride for the fine way our representatives dress and delight at their proficiency with silverware.



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