Lately, as multiple stories in the MSM and the blogosphere--including at least a couple of pieces in Monday's NY Times remind us--thousands of folks, not just around the globe but right here at home, are dying directly and indirectly due to the economic transgressions of our nation’s elite and
their paid minions our elected leaders acting on their behalf. It’s what some refer to as “economic terrorism.” Author Laura Gottesdiener recently discussed these realities as “Economic Weapons of Mass Destruction,” in an article titled, “Mortgages in the Era of Mass Terror.”
Yet, most of us are not conditioned by the MSM—and even the political blogosphere—to think of these reports in those stark terms. But, it’s strikingly true as we learn more in an op-ed in Monday’s NY Times: “How Austerity Kills,” by co-authors David Stuckler, a senior research leader in sociology at Oxford, and Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist in the Prevention Research Center at Stanford. Stuckler and Basu have also co-written a book titled, “The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills.”
Stuckler’s and Basu’s research and statistical citations are nothing short of stunning.
Near the beginning of their NY Times op-ed column they note:
…The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century. People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.
(Bold type is diarist's emphasis.)
In the United States, the suicide rate, which had slowly risen since 2000, jumped during and after the 2007-9 recession. In a new book, we estimate that 4,750 “excess” suicides — that is, deaths above what pre-existing trends would predict — occurred from 2007 to 2010. Rates of such suicides were significantly greater in the states that experienced the greatest job losses. Deaths from suicide overtook deaths from car crashes in 2009.
If suicides were an unavoidable consequence of economic downturns, this would just be another story about the human toll of the Great Recession. But it isn’t so. Countries that slashed health and social protection budgets, like Greece, Italy and Spain, have seen starkly worse health outcomes than nations like Germany, Iceland and Sweden, which maintained their social safety nets and opted for stimulus over austerity…
…As scholars of public health and political economy, we have watched aghast as politicians endlessly debate debts and deficits with little regard for the human costs of their decisions... ...What we’ve found is that people do not inevitably get sick or die because the economy has faltered. Fiscal policy, it turns out, can be a matter of life or death…
The researchers mention the two ends of the spectrum of government reaction to an economic crisis via diametrically opposing, implemented fiscal policies, with Greece exemplifying the most draconian example/result, and Iceland’s response representing the most progressive and positive outcome.
At this point in their op-ed they state: “Somewhere between these extremes is the United States.”
They acknowledge that, initially, our nation’s economic stimulus, in 2009, supported our country’s social safety net. But, now there are “warning signs” beyond our nation’s recently-publicized, escalating suicide rate. They tell us: “health trends are worsening,” as they note:
--antidepressant prescriptions have “soared”
--750,000, with a focus upon unemployed young males in this group, have taken up binge drinking
--5,000,000 Americans lost their health care insurance coverage due to job losses, and this was due to them either being unable to afford the cost to extend their insurance via Cobra, or because they simply lost their eligibility for that option
--Preventative medical care visits have declined, with many of those Americans opting for emergency room care, instead
Stuckler and Basu then comment that Obamacare is expanding coverage, but that’s only happening “gradually.”
Meanwhile, thousands are dying. (And, when everything’s said and done, not all of those suffering and dying now are going to be covered once Obamacare is fully implemented, down the road.)
The authors continue…
…The $85 billion “sequester” that began on March 1 will cut nutrition subsidies for approximately 600,000 pregnant women, newborns and infants by year’s end. Public housing budgets will be cut by nearly $2 billion this year, even while 1.4 million homes are in foreclosure. Even the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s main defense against epidemics like last year’s fungal meningitis outbreak, is being cut, by at least $18 million…
There’s much more to Stuckler’s and Basu’s column, and I don’t want to cover all of it, because that won’t encourage you to check it out for yourself. Here’s the LINK
to it, again.
They close noting three principles that “should guide responses to economic crises:”
…First, do no harm: if austerity were tested like a medication in a clinical trial, it would have been stopped long ago, given its deadly side effects…
…Second, treat joblessness like the pandemic it is. Unemployment is a leading cause of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicidal thinking…
…Finally, expand investments in public health when times are bad…
…One need not be an economic ideologue — we certainly aren’t — to recognize that the price of austerity can be calculated in human lives…What we have found is that austerity — severe, immediate, indiscriminate cuts to social and health spending — is not only self-defeating, but fatal.
In highly bipartisan language, just as Stuckler and Basu discuss health care and how it’s savaged by austerity in Monday’s NY Times, Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz notes how current economic realities in America are all but guaranteeing a future of debt servitude for many of our nation’s college graduates at that newspaper’s “Opinionator”
Student Debt and the Crushing of the American Dream
New York Times’ Opinionator Blog
May 12, 2013 9:09 pm
A CERTAIN drama has become familiar in the United States (and some other advanced industrialized countries): Bankers encourage people to borrow beyond their means, preying especially on those who are financially unsophisticated. They use their political influence to get favorable treatment of one form or another. Debts mount. Journalists record the human toll. Then comes bewilderment: How could we let this happen again? Officials promise to fix things. Something is done about the most egregious abuses. People move on, reassured that the crisis has abated, but suspecting that it will recur soon.
The crisis that is about to break out involves student debt and how we finance higher education. Like the housing crisis that preceded it, this crisis is intimately connected to America’s soaring inequality, and how, as Americans on the bottom rungs of the ladder strive to climb up, they are inevitably pulled down — some to a point even lower than where they began.
This new crisis is emerging even before the last one has been resolved, and the two are becoming intertwined. In the decades after World War II, homeownership and higher education became signs of success in America.
Before the housing bubble burst in 2007, banks persuaded low- and moderate-income homeowners that they could turn their houses and apartments into piggy banks. They seduced them into taking out home-equity loans — and in the end, millions lost their homes. In other cases, the banks, mortgage brokers and real-estate agents pushed aspiring homeowners to borrow beyond their means. The wizards of finance, who prided themselves on risk management, sold toxic mortgages that were designed to explode. They bundled the dubious loans into complex financial instruments and sold them to unsuspecting investors.
Everyone recognizes that education is the only way up, but as a college degree becomes increasingly essential to making one’s way in a 21st-century economy, education for those not to the manner born is increasingly unaffordable…
Professor Stiglitz really brings it all together, so to speak, in tonight’s column. And, I hesitate to convey too many of his thoughts because I respect the guy far too much to butcher his sentiments.
But, all around us, even though we may not label it as such, economic terrorism is winning the day.
And, while small efforts are made on behalf of the 99% by the few elected leaders in Washington that are making a truly serious effort to ameliorate societal problems, the reality is Main Street really isn’t even treading water when it comes to the majority of our population making up a significant portion of the economic ground that we’ve lost over the past few decades.
We may talk about Obamacare and the good it will accomplish once it’s fully implemented—IF it’s ever fully implemented bearing any semblance to the legislation’s original intent--but in many ways that matter, it’s just further enriching Big Pharma, making them more powerful than ever.
We can certainly applaud Elizabeth Warren as she fights to modestly lower the burden of skyrocketing college costs for our nation’s youth and young adults, but unaffordable education will only be slightly less unaffordable, even if her proposed legislation sees the light of day in a government that’s outright owned by Wall Street.
We should, also, certainly clap loudly for the passage of Brown-Vitter, to at least attempt to begin to get a handle on the unbridled growth of everything that’s wrong with American capitalism (gone astray), today.
And, we may look with a hopeful eye upon the thirteenth state that has passed legislation to override the Citizens United v. FEC SCOTUS decision, as Kossack Joan McCarter notified this community regarding same, just last week.
But, there’s a far more disturbing aspect to what lies ahead for most of us as legislation stealthily makes its way through to passage on the Hill under the banner of “trade policy” which, in effect, is anything but that.
In reality, what is being labelled as “trade legislation” that’s currently being steamrolled through to approval on Capitol Hill, effectively: makes Citizens United a moot point; enables Wall Street to circumvent virtually all U.S. (sovereign) laws and allows it to do whatever it damn well pleases wherever it wishes; grants Big Pharma and Big Agriculture the ability to virtually ransom its lifesaving patents around the globe; and it fully permits Big Oil/Big Energy to circumvent virtually every nation's environmental regulations worldwide, too.
You see, the world’s economic terrorists are all around us. They’re really only masquerading as Republicans and Democrats. The greater truth is they’re all members of the Corporatist Party. In the name of profits, they’re, literally, killing more and more of us with every passing day. Even in his headline, Joseph Stiglitz also discussed this greatest of inconvenient truths, less than a week ago, over at Project Syndicate, specifically as it related to something as seemingly benign as international patent laws…
Lives versus Profits
May 6, 2013
NEW YORK – The United States Supreme Court recently began deliberations in a case that highlights a deeply problematic issue concerning intellectual-property rights. The Court must answer the following question: Can human genes – your genes – be patented? Put another way, should someone essentially be permitted to own the right, say, to test whether you have a set of genes that imply a higher than 50% probability of developing breast cancer?
To those outside the arcane world of intellectual-property rights, the answer seems obvious: No. You own your genes. A company might own, at most, the intellectual property underlying its genetic test; and, because the research and development needed to develop the test may have cost a considerable amount, the firm might rightly charge for administering it.
But a Utah-based company, Myriad Genetics, claims more than that. It claims to own the rights to any test for the presence of the two critical genes associated with breast cancer – and has ruthlessly enforced that right, though their test is inferior to one that Yale University was willing to provide at much lower cost. The consequences have been tragic: Thorough, affordable testing that identifies high-risk patients saves lives. Blocking such testing costs lives. Myriad is a true example of an American corporation for which profit trumps all other values, including the value of human life itself.
This a particularly poignant case. Normally, economists talk about trade-offs: weaker intellectual-property rights, it is argued, would undermine incentives to innovate... ...The social benefits of Myriad’s slightly earlier discovery have been dwarfed by the costs that its callous pursuit of profit has imposed…
…Intellectual-property rights are rules that we create – and that are supposed to improve social well-being. But unbalanced intellectual-property regimes result in inefficiencies – including monopoly profits and a failure to maximize the use of knowledge – that impede the pace of innovation. And, as the Myriad case shows, they can even result in unnecessary loss of life…
So, while Stiglitz focuses upon the wrongheaded, Big Pharma realities of upcoming WTO accords in his piece from a week ago, a greater Big Pharma (and
Big Oil, Big Ag/Food, Wall Street, and MIC) trade horror show is already rearing its ugliness right under our noses…
TransPacific Partnership Will Undermine Democracy, Empower Transnational Corporations
Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese
March 27, 2013
….Privatize Health Care and Make it Unaffordable: Leaked documents show that the US Trade Representative is pressuring TPP member countries to expand pharmaceutical monopoly protections, which essentially trade away access to medicines. In a recent letter, Doctors Without Borders wrote that the TPP will be "the most harmful trade deal ever for access to medicines in developing countries." The TPP does this damage by inflating pharmaceutical prices through lengthy patent protections, as Doctors Without Borders writes:
One proposed TPP provision would require governments to grant new 20-year patents for modifications of existing medicines, such as a new forms, uses or methods, even without improvement of therapeutic efficacy for patients. Another provision would make it more expensive and cumbersome to challenge undeserved or invalid patents; and yet another would add additional years to a patent term to compensate for administrative processes. Taken together, these and other provisions will add up to more years of high-priced medicines at the expense of people needing treatment waiting longer for access to affordable generics.
There is also concern that the TPP will force public health systems to open up their medication programs to pharmaceutical corporations giving them greater access and greater control over the price of medications, effectively destroying the ability of the public health system to negotiate for a low price. The same may occur with public health systems in the US such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare and the Veterans Health Administration, making medications more expensive and potentially out of reach for their patient populations.
In addition, countries that provide health care through a national public health program, rather than a market-based system dominated by for-profit insurance, are threatened by provisions that oppose state-owned enterprises. Corporations view state provision of services as unfair competition and therefore a violation of free trade. This will make it more difficult for the United States to adopt a single-payer health system, and it will make it more difficult for countries with such systems to protect them from privatization and health insurance domination.
Now, in a post such as this I could always mention the ever-present poster CEO for U.S. greed-gone-wild, JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon.
And, I’m in awe of the “brilliant job” being done by former Clinton press secretary Jake Siewert, who not only did the spinning for our government when America ushered in Gramm-Leach-Bliley, supplanting Glass-Steagall in its wake, back in 2000; he didn’t stop there. Siewert was also Tim Geithner’s communications chief over at the Treasury Department for much of President Obama’s first term. Now as head of communications for Goldman-Sachs, it’s truly extraordinary how the MSM’s myopic focus has shifted from Goldman to JPMC over the past 18 months. Go figure?!
Just ten days ago, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was up in New York having dinner over at Robert Rubin’s Council on Foreign Relations with Dimon, Rubin, and many of the “usual suspects” that led us into this mess in the first place. (AIG ex-Chairman Maurice Greenberg and both former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and former White House Chief-of-Staff Bill Daley are now on Rubin’s payroll over at the CFR.) Here’s a LINK to much more on this story about that dinner from Pam Martens, over at her Wall Street on Parade blog.
Here’s a paragraph from Martens’ piece…
…Dimon is in serious hot water with his regulators. The firm that he heads has incurred over $16 billion in legal expenses over the past three years attempting to ward off lawsuits and investigations covering a breathtaking sweep of alleged wrongdoing. The London Whale debacle, where a unit of the bank gambled away over $6 billion of depositors’ money in London, has received the most press but it is just one speck of the whale of a mess at JPMorgan…
Independent blogger and one-time Kossack David Dayen recently noted this about JPMorgan Chase…
Mirabile Dictu! JP Morgan Finally on Regulatory Hot Seat for Widespread Control Failures and Alleged Lying by Blythe Masters Under Oath
May 3rd, 2013
…The fact that JP Morgan is in hot water isn’t news. Josh Rosner revealed in an extensive report released in early March that the bank had paid out over $8.5 billion in fines since 2009, nearly 12% of its net income, for violations across virtually all of its operations. This account showed the carefully cultivated picture of JP Morgan as a well-managed operation was an artful fabrication. As Dave Dayen wrote here in his overview:
….as you read the report, it’s hard to see the bank as anything but a criminal racket just days away from imploding, were it not propped up by implicit bailout guarantees and light-touch regulators. Rosner paints a picture of a corporation saddled with pervasive internal control problems, which end up costing shareholders, and which “could materially impact profitability in the future.” ….It’s hard to summarize all of the documented instances in this report of JPM has been breaking the law, but here’s my best shot….
In other words, the New York Times account is a pale rendition of the rap sheet against the bank…
Bank Secrecy Act violations;
Money laundering for drug cartels;
Violations of sanction orders against Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor;
Violations related to the Vatican Bank scandal (get on this, Pope Francis!);
Violations of the Commodities Exchange Act;
Failure to segregate customer funds (including one CFTC case where the bank failed to segregate $725 million of its own money from a $9.6 billion account) in the US and UK;
Knowingly executing fictitious trades where the customer, with full knowledge of the bank, was on both sides of the deal;
Various SEC enforcement actions for misrepresentations of CDOs and mortgage-backed securities;
The AG settlement on foreclosure fraud;
The OCC settlement on foreclosure fraud;
Violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act;
Illegal flood insurance commissions;
Fraudulent sale of unregistered securities;
Illegal increases of overdraft penalties;
Violations of federal ERISA laws as well as those of the state of New York;
Municipal bond market manipulations and acts of bid-rigging, including violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act;
Filing of unverified affidavits for credit card debt collections (“as a result of internal control failures that sound eerily similar to the industry’s mortgage servicing failures and foreclosure abuses”);
Energy market manipulation that triggered FERC lawsuits;
“Artificial market making” at Japanese affiliates;
Shifting trading losses on a currency trade to a customer account;
Fraudulent sales of derivatives to the city of Milan, Italy;
Obstruction of justice (including refusing the release of documents in the Bernie Madoff case as well as the case of Peregrine Financial).
And, if you’ve been following JPMC over the past few years, Dayen’s only giving us a sampling of a much lengthier list.
Everywhere one looks these days during a typical 24-hour news cycle we’re reminded that most of what we’re reading and watching play out before us boils down to the succinct headline of Columbia University economics professor Joe Stiglitz’ latest Project Syndicate column, noted above and also linked here: “Lives versus Profits.”
The strip-mining of our society by the one percent and their multinational corporations is clearly—and, it is becoming clearer with every passing day--nothing less than state-sponsored terrorism. These days, we’re continually reminded that the wrong choices are being made by our irreparably broken and corrupt government(s). This story is constantly in our face and otherwise palpable. It’s everywhere. It’s: devastating our climate and our environment1; making a mockery of our rule of law2; eliminating our few remaining rights to privacy 3; physically eroding4 or privatizing5 our public spaces and infrastructure (with much of that infrastructure, in some areas of the U.S., built during the FDR era, back when we had a functioning government that, eventually, got around to working across party lines and doing the right thing for the 99%); stealing our homes6; bilking our state7 and municipal governments8; destroying our education system9; devastating our job market10; ruining the twilight years of our nation’s seniors11; and, at the same time, dashing the hopes and futures of our nation’s youth.12
It’s important to point out that the acts of terrorism noted above do NOT include record-breaking income inequality that’s worsening with each new report; and this inequality story includes gross failure by most of our nation’s MSM to accurately link America’s rapidly rising suicide rate to the economic travesties that have been playing out before us (as Stuckler and Basu just reiterated this evening) for over five years, since the start of this Lesser Depression. I’ve also made no mention of the failure of our government to regulate gun control. There’s no reference to the Boston Marathon bombings nor the foiled, Canadian (Toronto-New York) train terrorist plot. And we’re not even talking about the two, most recent industrial/labor tragedies—both caused by a lack of government regulation and related enforcement—spanning the globe from West, Texas to Bangladesh.
Sadly, most of what I mention, above, relates to “fresh” economic/corporate news stories from just the past few weeks! (Of course, many of these stories relate to a series of events that have been playing out for years, if not decades. But, these latest MSM reminders are just that. In our face, every damn day. And, today, Monday’s no exception.)
These are stark reminders of the utter failure of our society to protect its citizens from severe harm and death. And, I’m NOT talking about the type of “protection” one would associate with the Department of Homeland Security, either!
Lately, moreso than ever, given a choice between the lives of our nation’s (and the world’s) citizens versus the profits of the corporatocracy, the latter wins out virtually every damn time. As Professor Stiglitz’ much more conservative colleague at Columbia, Jeffrey Sachs, even stated it just over two weeks ago, the blatant criminality and brutality of the situation is: “Out of control!”13
Sachs also wrote recently about four of the five U.S. corporate gangs that run our country (he missed one, Big Ag/Food, but did an excellent deeper dive on the other four: Big Oil/Energy, Wall Street, the Military-Industrial Complex and Big Pharma, in an otherwise excellent article that was published at the very end of this past year) are killing us. Slowly. Quietly. From behind closed doors. (Reference: the CFR story, up above.) They instill fear—a veritable domestic version of “shock and awe,” as it were--via their fully-owned MSM. And, their minions that run our government parrot their bosses’ talking points—to the point where members of those corporate gangs actually write much of our country’s legislation14 on Capitol Hill. They’re slaughtering our hopes and killing off our most most impoverished and ill—those citizens that need a sane and compassionate society’s help most--first. And, they’re concurrently gaming a system that was—more often than not--deliberately designed and/or “legally” re-engineered to be gamed by the one percent for their self-enrichment, in the first place; all at the quite direct and extreme expense of everyone else.
Literally millions, here and around the world, are being killed each year by captured governments guilty—at “best”—of negligent manslaughter. Essentially, these elected officials don’t give a rat’s ass if those voters that elected them live or die. That’s because our government(s) virtually always gives them a free pass or a traffic ticket for these countless murders.
I think it's pretty safe to say we're going to be hearing a lot more about the term, economic terrorism, in coming months and years. Here's author Laura Gottesdiener spelling it out for us--both the term, "economic terrorism," and how it relates to another ongoing terrorism event...
Economic Weapons of Mass Destruction
Mortgages in the Era of Mass Terror
by LAURA GOTTESDIENER
May 3, 2013
Terrorism is a tricky act to define, particularly when household appliances have become weapons of mass destruction. Earlier in April, as the National Guard and Boston Police scoured the city’s suburbs in search of two men believed to have planted the fatal marathon bombs, another story of violence and mass insecurity surfaced.
As the New York Times reported, “The banks that created risky amalgams of mortgages and loans during the boom — the kind that went so wrong during the bust — are busily reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good.”
In other words, the well-heeled boys are back in town, peddling predatory mortgages to be bundled and sold on Wall Street. Even the Times, generally bullish on business, struck a cautionary tone. “The revival also underscores how these investments, known as structured financial products, have largely escaped new regulations that were supposed to prevent a repeat of the last financial crisis.”
Warnings of a repeat of the last financial crisis — printed on the front page of the New York Times?
Gottesdiener then spells it out for us, compliments of the Department of Homeland Security, no less...
The Department of Homeland Security has the most comprehensive definition of terrorism , which explains that these acts must fulfill the following criteria.
The term “terrorism” means any activity that—
(A) involves an act that—
(i) is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources; and
(ii) is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States; and
(B) appears to be intended—
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.
If you ask Helen James, a Chicago woman who has lived both on the streets and in shelters, being without a house in the U.S. is clearly dangerous to human life. When we spoke last summer she talked of untreated hemorrhoids and sleeping on benches during freezing Chicago winters. “I just don’t want to die,” she said.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 700 people without addresses die each year from hypothermia alone... ...More Americans have frozen to death since the economic crisis began than have died in all terrorism attacks on U.S. soil in the last two decades—September 11th, included.
Yes, it's supposedly U.S. government policy not to negotiate with terrorists...except when they're signing your checks
# # #
1 “Foes Suggest a Tradeoff if Pipeline Is Approved.” John M. Broder, NY Times (5/9/13)
2 “Why Foreclosure Fraud Is So Dangerous to Property Rights,” Barry Ritholtz, Big Picture Blog (10/12/10)
3 “U.S. Weighs Wider Wiretap Laws to Cover Online Activity,” CHARLIE SAVAGE, NY Times (5/8/13)
4 “Europeans Are Laughing At U.S.' Decaying & Antiquated Infrastructure, Utilities, Transportation,” Democratic Underground (11/16/12)
5 ”Obama Budget Talks Sale Of Tennessee Valley Authority, Largest Public Utility,” Travis Loller, Associated Press via Huffington Post (4/10/13)
6 “Independent Foreclosure Review Fiasco: OCC and Fed Decided Not to Find Harm,” Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism (4/18/13)
7 “How The ‘Bipartisan Consensus’ On Dodd-Frank & The Budget Enables The Pillaging Of Our Underclasses,” Bob Swern, Daily Kos (4/25/11)
8 “Sewers, Swaps and Bachus,” Joe Nocera, NY Times (4/23/11)
9 “American Education is being Deliberately Destroyed - But Why?” Michael Potash, Reader Supported News (3/9/12)
10 “Better jobs reports don't help this lost generation of unemployed young adults,” Guardian UK (5/3/13)
11 “Many Americans say they can't retire until their 70s or 80s,” Walter Hamilton, LA Times (5/7/13)
12 “The Idled Young Americans,” David Leonhardt, NY Times (5/5/13)
13 Columbia University Economist Jeffrey Sachs’ Speech to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve YouTube (4/23/13)
14 “The United States of ALEC: Bill Moyers on the Secretive Corporate-Legislative Body Writing Our Laws,” DemocracyNow.org on Moyers & Company, PBS (9/27/12); “Bill Moyers Essay: On the Health Industry Lobby,” Bill Moyers’ Journal, PBS (10/9/09)