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One Percent To 99: Stop Picking On Us

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According to Bloomberg today, what the major banks and the gentlemen who run them want for Christmas is for everyone to stop persecuting them with all this talk of "the 1 percent," and to stop reminding them of the fact that they've profited while the rest of the country has suffered through an epic crisis of unemployment and home foreclosures as a direct result of their cosmic incompetence.

They're quite sick of it, and they want it to stop! So they whined at length to a Bloomberg reporter and, as Choire Sicha characterizes the end result, "It's an incredibly hot, defensive mess up in there."

To wit:

Jamie Dimon, the highest-paid chief executive officer among the heads of the six biggest U.S. banks, turned a question at an investors' conference in New York this month into an occasion to defend wealth.

"Acting like everyone who's been successful is bad and because you're rich you're bad, I don't understand it," the JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) CEO told an audience member who asked about hostility toward bankers. "Sometimes there's a bad apple, yet we denigrate the whole."

And sometimes, you know, "the whole" turns out to be entirely rotted through with "apples" that were not adequately capitalized against the crazy bets they were making with each other, forcing teachers and firefighters and mail-carriers and, I don't know -- stevedores? -- to give them $4.7 trillion so that they can pretend to be solvent. But that money was donated with the explicit expectation that it would be lent productively. What happened instead is that all the banks posted record profits and spent that money on an army of lobbyists, dispatched to Washington, D.C., to ensure that whatever financial regulation comes out of the just-averted disaster doesn't actually prevent the casino-derivatives game from ramping up all over again.

It's pretty understandable for denigration to commence at that point. Apparently, we're just expected to forget that "2008-present" actually happened.

While there are a few people who show up in the piece to speak from a position of reason to discuss how jobs are actually created, the piece, in the main, seems to exist just so the reporter can stuff as many quotes as possible into it, so that the reader comes away thinking, "My God, the balls on these guys!" You have the guy who's proud to call himself a "fat cat," and the guy who says he was going to "vomit" if he hears about paying his fair share again. Honestly, this is all forgiveable bluster from pretty ignorant people. By far, this is the most hilarious statement:

"Instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let's call it an attack on the very productive," [director of BB&T Corp. John A.] Allison said. "This attack is destructive."

That's what's so comical about this: The massive derivatives casino that exploded, taking down the global economy with it, was an extraordinarily unproductive enterprise for wealth to have been involved in. What would these people do with their lives, if they sequestered themselves to Galt's Gulch? Based on what we've learned, the most likely outcome is that they'd spend their time passing the same 20-dollar bill back and forth between them, with each new recipient exclaiming, "I can feel it getting more valuable!" until they all starved to death, leaving the rest of us to bury them in a mass grave.

The other hilarious statement comes from Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman, who says of people who are not wealthy bankers: "You have to have skin in the game ... I'm not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system."

Hey, speaking of:

Five banks that received federal bailout funds during the financial crisis didn't pay income taxes for one or more years between 2008 and 2010, according to an iWatch News analysis of a new study of tax dodgers [from the Citizens for Tax Justice & the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.]

Wells Fargo & Co., Goldman Sachs Group, PNC Financial Services Group, Capital One Financial Inc. and State Street Corp. were among 78 of America's largest and most profitable corporations that managed to avoid paying income tax in at least one of those years.

Researchers looked at 280 corporations that reported a total pretax U.S. profits of $1.4 trillion. The federal corporate tax code "ostensibly requires big corporations to pay a 35 percent corporate income tax rate, on average, the 280 corporations in our study paid only about half that amount."

The study was released Thursday by nonpartisan advocacy groups Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

All five financial institutions named were profitable, but still received funds in the form of stock purchases from the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program.

And so we return to where we began, with ordinary Americans ponying up $4.7 trillion to save the world, sacrificing their own jobs and homes along the way.

Now, as it happens, I've been thinking of ways for the Jamie Dimons of the world to get back in good favor with the rest of country that saved his bacon. You know who the greatest human beings in the country are right now? It's these anonymous donors who are going around, paying off people's layaway items at K-Mart. Whoever this person or persons are, they are giving the entire nation the gift of anti-cynicism for Christmas. He/she/they are just out there, doing some good for the holidays.

Something that these aggrieved financiers could do, if they wanted, is, say, agree to pay off the student loans of everyone who has graduated from college or grad school since 2008. It would send a strong message, that the people who have posted the highest profits during this decline are not willing to permit the next generation or producers and innovators and teachers and healers to be saddled with debt at a time when jobs are unavailable. Instead of placing high-tech bets on who will default on their mortgage, they'd be placing a bet on the next generation of Steve Jobses. (Yes, they'd be benefitting people in other fields of study, too, but the last time I checked, rich people like to underwrite opera companies and symphony orchestras and museums and libraries as well.)

I mean, failing that, they could pay that fee that people need to pay, in some areas, for the fire department to come and pour water on house fires? Just an idea I had. Or they could simply agree to return the $1.5 trillion they owe taxpayers from all of the bailouts? I mean, if you're really going to take pride in the fact that you're a fat cat, shouldn't your fat-cattedness be based on something other than the fact that you received charity from taxpayers?

Or you could just thank America for saving your entire industry from that time you nearly destroyed it through your own titanic cock-ups, instead of lecturing your saviors about what awful people they are.

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A response to "Don't Tax the Rich. Tax the Inequality Itself."