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Trump wants socialism for the rich — and harsh capitalism for the rest of us

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- Commentary

“America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump declared in his State of the Union address. Someone should alert Trump that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it is socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism.

In the conservative mind, socialism means getting something for doing nothing. That pretty much describes the $21 billion saved by the nation’s largest banks last year thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, some of which went into massive bonuses for bank executives. On the other hand, more than 4,000 lower-level bank employees got a big dose of harsh capitalism. They lost their jobs.

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Banks that are too big to fail – courtesy of the 2008 bank bailout – enjoy a hidden subsidy of some $83 billion a year, because creditors facing less risk accept lower interest on deposits and loans. Last year, Wall Street’s bonus pool was $31.4 billion. Take away the hidden subsidy and the bonus pool disappears.

Trump and his appointees at the Federal Reserve are easing bank requirements put in place after the bailout. They’ll make sure the biggest banks remain too big to fail.

Trump is promoting socialism for the rich and harsh capitalism for everyone else in other ways. Since he was elected, GM has got more than $600 million in federal contracts plus $500 million in tax breaks. Some of this has gone into the pockets of GM executives. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra raked in almost $22m in total compensation in 2017 alone.

But GM employees are subject to harsh capitalism. GM is planning to lay off more than 14,000 workers and close three assembly plants and two component factories in North America by the end of 2019.

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When he was in business, Trump perfected the art of using bankruptcy to shield himself from the consequences of bad decisions – socialism for the rich at its worst – while leaving employees twisting in the wind.

Now, all over America, executives who run their companies into the ground are getting gold-plated exit packages while their workers get pink slips.

Sears is doling out $25 million to the executives who stripped its remaining assets and drove it into bankruptcy, but has no money for the thousands of workers it laid off.

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As Pacific Gas and Electric hurtles toward bankruptcy, the person who was in charge when the deadly infernos roared through northern California last year (caused in part by PG&E’s faulty equipment) has departed with a cash severance package of $2.5 million. The PG&E executive in charge of gas operations when records were allegedly falsified left in 2018 with $6.9 million.

Under socialism for the rich, you can screw up big time and still reap big rewards. Equifax’s Richard Smith retired in 2017 with an $18 million pension in the wake of a security breach that exposed the personal information of 145 million consumers to hackers.

Wells Fargo’s Carrie Tolstedt departed with a $125 million exit package after being in charge of the unit that opened more than 2 million unauthorized customer accounts.

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Around 60 percent of America’s wealth is now inherited. Many of today’s super rich have never done a day’s work in their lives.

Trump’s response has been to cut the estate tax to apply only to estates valued at over $22 million per couple. Mitch McConnell is now proposing that the estate tax be repealed altogether.

What about the capitalist principles that people earn what they’re worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them?

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America is on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history. As rich boomers expire over the next three decades, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children.

Those children will be able to live off of the income these assets generate, and then leave the bulk of them to their own heirs, tax-free. (Capital gains taxes don’t apply to the soaring values of stocks, bonds, mansions and other assets of wealthy people who die before they’re sold.)

After a few generations of this, almost all of the nation’s wealth will be in the hands of a few thousand non-working families.

To the conservative mind, the specter of socialism conjures up a society in which no one is held accountable, and no one has to work for what they receive. Yet that’s exactly the society Trump and the Republicans are promoting for the rich.

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Meanwhile, most Americans are subject to an increasingly harsh and arbitrary capitalism in which they’re working harder but getting nowhere, and have less security than ever.

They need thicker safety nets and deserve a bigger piece of the economic pie. If you want to call this socialism, fine. I call it fair.

This article was originally published at RobertReich.org


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‘Nauseating’: Trump displays his utter contempt for the law and the Constitution — again

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Abuse of power must be the label on a burgeoning dossier of complaints about Donald Trump as a president who would order subordinates to ignore congressional subpoenas, to steal money from one approved budget pot to build his Wall, to flaunt ethical protocols – and to do all those obstruction-like things outlined in the Mueller Report.

Now has come a mysterious new problem – a so-called whistleblower case alleging some kind of unidentified bad behavior from the top of the White House. From the descriptions of who is targeted, it seems to focus on Trump, his family, or someone within the top tier. Indeed, The Washington Post reported from sources that the complaint concerned an urgent matter relating to Trump promises to a foreign leader, most probably the prime minister of Ukraine.

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Trump is openly colluding with Ukraine to smear Biden

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President Donald Trump is defending his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, one that recent media reports suggest may have been made in order to dig up dirt about one of Trump's likeliest and strongest opponents in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden.

This article first appeared on Salon.

"The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, want to stay as far away as possible from the Joe Biden demand that the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won’t get a very large amount of U.S. money, so they fabricate a story about me and a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had with the new President of the Ukraine," Trump tweeted on Saturday. "Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster. The Fake News knows this but doesn’t want to report!"

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It’s ‘Clinton Cash’ all over again as the media blow the Trump whistleblower story

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

We would praise the reporters who revealed the content of a whistle-blower’s complaint that the Trump regime has refused to turn over to Congress as the law requires. But it appears that the outlines of the story were already known in DC political circles. Two weeks before the whistleblower story broke, The Washington Post ran an editorial noting that Donald Trump was withholding $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, and that while “some suspect Mr. Trump is once again catering to Mr. Putin, who is dedicated to undermining Ukrainian democracy and independence,… the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force [Ukrainian president Volodymyr] Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden." The authors added, "Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.”

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