Saturday, July 4, 2020

AMERICA'S PARASITE ECONOMY - BLOG FOCUS ON BEVERLY HILLS LOAN COMPANY SUCKING THE BLOOD OF CONSUMERS SINCE 1938


BLOG CONSUMER WARNING:
THE CASE OF LOAN SHARKER DAN RIFKIN OPERATING AS BEVERLY HILLS LOAN COMPANY

Beverly Loan Company
9440 Santa Monica Blvd. Suite 301
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 275-2555 ext. 25


THE PARASITE ECONOMY
Do you still remember when American business did not operate on the basis of hook, crook, and steal, but had to provide an honest service or product for an honest price?

BUT NOW IT’S ALL RIGGED!
Rigged to steal money from people.

It’s really a simple paradigm they all use, and it follows that of the banksters who have stollen trillions of dollars from the American economy. The five biggest banksters alone suck out of us more than $5 billion per year on account ‘overdraft’ charges which they’ve rigged to make massively profitable. There is no real cost to rejecting a check NFS. Yet the banks suck off $35-$45 dollars each for this cash cow.

Banks, and virtually all businesses use deceptive means to lure consumers into their web. They offer all kinds of perks to come their way, most, if not all, are fraudulent, grossly exaggerated, or simply withdrawn once you connected your bank account with the parasite operation.

The American middle class didn’t die of natural causes. We were plundered and looted by the special interests who suck the blood out of this nation, buy the filthy politicians to enable and abet their crime waves.

DAN RIFKIN IS THE CONSUMMATE LOAN SHARKER CON MAN.  He operates on a very simply and entirely parasitic paradigm to suck the blood out of consumers.

First, he offers you next to nothing for your valuable objects, such as your Cartier watches.

He charges blood sucking interest rates and other fees that are obscene in their greed. This is one greed fucker who has probably done nothing in his entire life other than parasite off people.
Once you have repaid the amount borrowed and then some, Rifkin hooks and crooks to steal your property.

Business is booming for the BEVERLY HILLS LOAN sharkers. So good they built a special elevator up the side of the building for their victims.



THE TRUMP DEPRESSION

The Trump Administration Is Giving Up on Fighting the Pandemic

The death toll is climbing. For the president, it’s nothing more than a matter of political inconvenience.

One of the challenges of writing political analysis in the era of the absurd is that simply repeating the “straight” news carries the lurid shock of hyperbole—and there’s little more that one can say beyond restating the obvious. The most appropriate additions to the news would be less a matter of adding context and more inserting furious expletives. Even the politely serious tone of the traditional pundit itself becomes a form of normalization of—and even acquiescence to—the outrageous and unacceptable.
So when you read a story as shocking as this one, perhaps the best thing one can do is let it speak for itself:
After several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: Learn to live with it.
Administration officials are planning to intensify what they hope is a sharper, and less conflicting, message of the pandemic next week, according to senior administration officials, after struggling to offer clear directives amid a crippling surge in cases across the country. On Thursday, the United States reported more than 55,000 new cases of coronavirus and infection rates were hitting new records in multiple states.
The American federal government under Trump is functionally giving up on controlling the worst pandemic in over a century. This is not because the pandemic is uncontrollable—far from it. Most of the rest of the developed world has brought infection rates to low enough levels that they can begin to reopen and live their lives mostly as usual, tamping down any local outbreaks as necessary.
But not the United States. Americans already had a cultural predisposition to make controlling a pandemic challenging: our libertarian streak and distrust of collective action or compliance makes just enforcing mask-wearing (much less stricter measures) a challenge. Four decades of Reaganism has rendered much of the public incapable of even imagining the scale of either medical intervention or fiscal stimulus that other countries undertook as a matter of course. While most other countries were guaranteeing wages and conducting strict contact tracing and isolation, Americans were getting measly one-time $1,200 checks and figuring out if we should really close down bars and casinos or not.
It would have required strong leadership from the federal government to overcome America’s cultural challenges. Instead, the Trump administration actively downplayed the threat of the virus for purely political reasons, hoping to minimize even a temporary economic impact. They polarized Republican America against taking necessary measures, again for political reasons: their base either didn’t believe the virus was a threat because Fox News said it wasn’t, or didn’t care because the first wave of infection mostly hit people of color in urban areas.
Now? They’re just giving up. Faced with the reality that truly defeating the virus would require mobilization of medical resources, contact tracing and social assistance that Republicans simply will not tolerate, the Trump administration has declared defeat. The president himself is still engaged in wishful thinking that the virus will simply magically disappear. The rest of the Republican leadership is assuming that people will be desperate enough to go to work and live their normal lives even if it means possibly killing themselves and vulnerable people around them, or becoming violently ill for weeks with possible lifelong health repercussions.
The death toll in the United States is 132,000 and climbing. Infection rates are spiking at record levels. Most of the rest of the world got it under control. But America, with four percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of the cases of the disease.
And the president of the United States is simply giving up because it would too politically inconvenient to do anything else. What else is appropriate to say except words you can’t use on public airwaves?

Trump’s Bungled Pandemic Response Is Crushing American Incomes

New data shows the costs of the administration’s failure to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

Donald Trump may have normalized cognitive dissonance for many of his supporters and some young people.  But wishing away the pandemic does not affect reality.  The May data on personal incomes released last week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is a serious case in point. The data show that our nearly singular failure to wrestle the pandemic to manageable proportions has cut quickly and deeply into wage and salary income across the country. The only force staving off desperate conditions for many households was the one-time checks the government sent most Americans and the temporary expansion of jobless benefits.
Now with the resurgence of COVID-19 infections, Congress has little choice but to approve another round of checks and extend the generous unemployment benefits. If Congress does approve a lot more help, millions of American households will still face financial peril – and if Congress fails to step up again, tens of millions of Americans could confront financial ruin.
As a dose of reality, the new income data show that our current conditions are roughly three times as severe as the Great Recession.  All personal income fell 4.2 percent in May and 3.0 percent over the three months from March through May.  It took nine months for personal income to fall that much during the Great Recession.  Wage and salary income actually increased by 3.3 percent in May, as the payroll grants under the CARES program kicked in and businesses began to reopen.  Even so, wage and salary income fell 7.9 percent from March through May, again more than during the entire Great Recession.
The reason that total personal income fell “only” 3.0 percent over the three months—the steepest drop on record—while total wage and salary income fell an astounding 7.9 percent in three months was due almost entirely to those government checks and jobless benefits. After setting aside government transfers, the BEA reports that total personal income fell 7.5 percent in three months.
We seem headed now for another round of the pandemic that looks much like March through May. In March, as the virus quickly spun out of control, businesses began to shut down by mid-month and Congress expanded jobless benefits. By April, with millions of businesses shuttered or struggling, and wage and salary income falling 7.7 percent in one month, the government sent out the emergency checks. By May, as the spread of the virus slowed after physical-distancing measures were imposed across the country, many businesses began to reopen, so wage and salary income rose.
Yet through it all, the Trump administration never put in place nationwide testing and contact tracing. Lulled by the president’s baseless assurance that he had beaten back the pandemic, millions of people resumed their lives without bothering to social distance, wear masks, and take other basic precautions. So now, in late June, we find ourselves headed back to where we were in March. Across much of the country, the virus is spinning out of control again, and state governments are beginning to shut down businesses they let reopen in late May and early June. The business shutdowns will likely spread again until new cases of COVID-19 fall sharply again, perhaps in August or September.
For a measure of what this could mean for the incomes of millions of Americans, especially if Senate Republicans continue to reject another round of emergency checks, recall the recent findings by the Federal Reserve that 37 percent of households cannot handle an unexpected $400 expense on their own. The agency recommended those people either charge it to their credit card debt, sell off some possessions, or try to borrow it from family, friends, a payday lender, or a bank – and that was in good economic times.
To be sure, the 3.0 percent drop in total personal income over three months has not hit everyone. Investors are fine, thanks to support from the Federal Reserve and Treasury: The S&P 500 was nearly 100 points higher on June 29 (3,053.24) than on February 28 (2,954.22). Alas, the 58 percent of households those earning less than $50,000 account for 1.8 percent of all capital gains income. But set that aside and approach what’s happening to personal income as an average income loss of 3.0 percent for everyone. That would translate into a $1,858 shortfall for a median-income household ($61,937 in 2018)– nearly five times what 37 percent of Americans said they couldn’t handle when the economy was growing.
If phase two of the pandemic unfolds like phase one, personal income and total wages and salaries will fall substantially further.  If income losses over the next three months are comparable to what already happened in March through May, a median income household could face an average income hit of $3,718 with another round of government assistance and an average hit of $6,503 if government help doesn’t come through a second time.
Congress will likely step up again, and the president will try to claim credit.  But for the majority of Americans with few resources beyond their paychecks and home equity, this pandemic and the administration’s bafflingly inept response will scar their financial well-being for a long time.



Now, amidst the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression, the Trump administration is opening up private equity to retirement investments as a means of keeping these financial markets filled with cash. This should be viewed in conjunction with the CARES Act bailout of Wall Street, which handed trillions of dollars to major American corporations, as well as the unprecedented injection of trillions of dollars into the bond markets through the Federal Reserve.

Trump administration gives private equity firms access to 401(k) retirement funds


4 July 2020
In June, the US Labor Department announced that it would allow 401(k) retirement funds to invest in private equity firms.
Private equity companies are financial firms, 
in many cases tied to a parent bank or other 
larger financial institution, that are 
unregulated. They serve as vehicles for 
speculative activities, often high-risk bets that 
promise a high return. They are a part of the 
so-called shadow banking system that has 
seen an explosive growth over the last 20 
years.
Unlike pensions—so-called “defined benefit” plans that guarantee a set monthly income for retirees—401(k)s, “defined contribution” plans, are subject to the vagaries of the stock and bond markets, as are the benefits they yield to workers who pay into them. Opening up the $7.9 trillion in 401(k) assets to private equity funds increases the risk to workers that their retirement savings will be gutted or wiped out by a new financial crisis.
Private equity firms are heavily engaged in takeovers of companies, usually employing borrowed money and often carried out in opposition to the management of the targeted firms. Having acquired a company, the private equity firm as a rule loads it up with debt, extracts huge fees for the private equity owners, slashes jobs and wages, and then resells the zombie firm for a profit.
One example is Bain Capital, previously run by Republican senator and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Bain has relied on leveraged buyouts to amass its $105 billion portfolio. Bain, however, is only the fifth largest private equity firm. Other examples include the Brazilian-American firm 3G Capital, which took over Burger King in 2010 and Tim Hortons in 2014, restructuring and merging both.
Private equity firms are heavily invested in start-up firms. SoftBank, the massive Japanese investment bank, has a private equity wing called the SoftBank Vision Fund, with over $100 billion of capital. SoftBank has invested in major tech-related start-ups such as Uber and WeWork.
The Labor Department’s decision to allow 401(k)s to invest in these markets was the result of an executive order, the “Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery Executive Order 13924,” issued by Trump on May 19.

According to Lexology, a leading corporate legal news processor, the executive order “calls on agencies to provide or extend regulatory flexibilities that promote job creation and economic growth, and provide regulatory relief to businesses as they work to recover from the impact of the coronavirus.”
Trump’s order essentially instructed federal agencies, including the Labor Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency, to loosen regulatory standards so as to promote “economic growth,” i.e., corporate profits.
Lexology continues: “[T]hese directives provide important opportunities for businesses to engage with the regulatory agencies and help shape deregulatory activity and enforcement policy for the near future.”
Up to now, 401(k)s have been prohibited 

from investing in private equity firms and their

activities because of the risk to the workers 

whose retirement will depend on their 401(k) 

benefits.
Among other things, Trump’s executive order allows federal agencies to engage in so-called “pre-enforcement rulings” in relation to corporate offenders. That is, if a company or financial institution is caught violating a federal regulation, it can negotiate a deal with the government before legal action is initiated. According to Lexology, this greatly reduces “enforcement risk,” i.e., it reduces or eliminates penalties for violations of labor and environmental regulations.
Investopedia reports that several financial advisors have expressed their opposition to the opening up of private equity firms to 401(k)s. They cite Robert Johnson, a professor of finance at Creighton University, who says that “it’s a mistake to give 401(k) investors access to private equity through their plans.” He adds, “Private equity structures are complex and opaque to the average investor.”
The Labor Department’s decision is a huge boon to private equity firms, which will now have access to the massive pool of assets held by 401(k) funds, which are overseen by asset management firms such as Vanguard and Fidelity.
The timing is no accident. Last year, before the pandemic, the Financial Times titled an article “The private equity bubble is bound to burst.” McKinsey estimated the same year that the private equity markets, pumped up with cheap credit and filled with money from investors seeking the highest returns, had ballooned to $5.8 trillion, more than the gross domestic product of Japan, the third largest economy in the world. Forbes published an article headlined “Private Equity Will Lead the Next Meltdown,” which called attention to the massive and unsustainable buildup of debt in these markets.
Now, amidst the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression, the Trump administration is opening up private equity to retirement investments as a means of keeping these financial markets filled with cash. This should be viewed in conjunction with the CARES Act bailout of Wall Street, which handed trillions of dollars to major American corporations, as well as the unprecedented injection of trillions of dollars into the bond markets through the Federal Reserve.
The loosening of regulatory restrictions on financial players and investors, including allowing private equity firms access to 401(k)s, will open the door to even greater financial trickery and crime.
Who will pay when the highly indebted private equity world of start-ups goes bust? The answer is the workers who are invested in 401(k)s that are tied into these parasitic speculative operations.
Already, before the pandemic, a survey by Bankrate of American adults found that one in five people had nothing saved for retirement or emergencies. Less than a third of Americans have saved 11 percent or more of their annual income.
A 2018 article by the Wall Street Journal, “A Generation of Americans is Entering Old Age the Least Prepared in Decades,” found that high average debt in things like children’s education, unpaid mortgages and parents’ old age meant that Americans reaching retirement age were less prepared than they had been since the 1940s.
In 1979, 38 percent of private employees had a traditional pension. In 2016, just 13 percent of these workers had one. The average household in 2013, whose head was 55 to 64 years old, had a retirement fund of just $14,500, according to the Journal. That is barely enough to live for a few months in most major cities.
It is amid this disastrous situation facing retirees that the Trump administration has further eroded their economic security by plugging their 401(k)s into private equity, which will plunder workers’ already inadequate savings to increase profits and stave off insolvency.

World’s Largest Pension Fund Loses $165 Billion in Worst Quarter

 Shoko Oda and Shigeki Nozawa
BloombergJuly 3, 2020
(Bloomberg) -- The world’s biggest pension fund posted a record loss in the first three months of 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic sparked a global market rout in the period.
Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund lost 11%, or 17.7 trillion yen ($164.7 billion), in the three months ended March, it said in Tokyo on Friday. The decline in value was the steepest based on comparable data back to April 2008, reducing the fund’s total assets to 150.63 trillion yen. Foreign stocks were the worst performing investment, followed by domestic equities.
The results come just months after the fund revamped top management and revised its asset allocation to focus more on overseas debt. The loss, which wiped out gains for the fiscal year, may attract political attention as social security remains a major concern for tens of millions of Japan’s retirees.
“The decline in domestic and foreign equities led to a negative return for the fiscal year,” said Masataka Miyazono, the president of GPIF. “Both equity markets performed strongly during 2019 even under pressures from the U.S.-China trade negotiations. The global coronavirus pandemic led to investors taking a risk-off stance.”
Overseas bonds were the only major asset to generate a positive quarterly return. The securities gained 0.5%, compared with losses of 0.5% for domestic bonds, 18% for local equities and 22% for foreign stocks. In April, GPIF raised its asset allocation to foreign bonds by 10 percentage points to 25%, while keeping the target for foreign and domestic stocks unchanged at 25%.
Naoki Fujiwara, the chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management Co., said the losses were expected. Equities have rebounded since March, so the pension fund should be recouping losses for the April-June period, Fujiwara said.“The current portfolio is exposed to equity volatility,” he said. “We’re in a low-yield environment right now, and will likely be for the next two years, so maybe it’s alright for now, but in the long run, the pension fund should correct the allocation of equities.”
Read more: An Ex-Goldman Bond Trader’s Quiet Rise to Managing $1.6 Trillion
Under the new guidance of GPIF President Miyazono and Chief Investment Officer Eiji Ueda, the fund must navigate a volatile market torn between an ongoing coronavirus pandemic and promises of economic stimulus measures. Fears of a second wave of outbreak are already hampering the global equity markets recovery.
The GPIF isn’t rushing to buy foreign bonds, which are 3% below its allocation target, Miyazono told reporters in Tokyo. The fund has a long-term investment timeframe much longer than 10-20 years, he said, adding that there will be no impact on pension payouts from a single year’s results.
Investments in ESG indices reached a record high of 5.7 trillion yen. The GPIF, a leader in socially responsible investing, has invested in indexes such as the FTSE Blossom Japan, MSCI Japan ESG Select Leaders and MSCI Japan Empowering Women.
During the January-March quarter, the MSCI All-Country World Index of global stocks slumped 22%, the worst since the global financial crisis. Yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasuries slumped 125 basis points to near record lows during the same period, fueled by unprecedented measures from the U.S. Federal Reserve and intense demand for haven assets.
From April, the GPIF has adjusted its portfolio, setting a general target to keep 25% each in all four asset classes, with the allocation of each assets allowed to deviate by different ranges.

“During his time running mortgage lender OneWest, which he bought with a group of investors for pennies on the dollar before selling it for a personal profit of many millions, Steven Mnuchin & Co. foreclosed on more than 36,000 homeowners. Because (1) that’s a lot of people kicked out of a lot houses and (2) everyone loves a good nickname, Mnuchin has earned the moniker, in some circles, “Foreclosure King,” or ”Foreclosure King of California,” if you’re not one for brevity.” BESS LEVIN


Steve Mnuchin, foreclosure king, now runs your US Treasury

Where do they find these people? Appointed by the president as Cabinet members, many have past lives and records that should immediately disqualify them for any high office.
Someone who has not been given the attention he so richly deserves is Steven Mnuchin, the new secretary of the Treasury.
Only one Democratic senator voted for him: Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Every other Democratic senator voted a resounding "no."
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the following of Mnuchin: "His complicity in the 2008 financial crisis raises serious doubts."
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) went further: "He was part of the cadre of corporate raiders that brought our economy to its knees."
Of the astute businessman's failure to disclose $100 million in an overseas tax haven, Menendez added: "One does not go and create offshore entities at the end of the day other than to avoid, in some form or fashion, the tax laws of the United States. That's pretty simple."
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) did not hesitate to call Mnuchin "greedy" and "unethical." She backed it up with these blunt words: "Whether illegally foreclosing on thousands of families, skirting the law with offshore tax havens or helping design tactics that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis, Steve Mnuchin made a career — and millions of dollars — pioneering increasingly deceptive and predatory ways to rob hardworking Americans of their savings and homes." 
Seemingly, Mnuchin was another one of President Trump's campaign thank-yous. He was one of the very few corporate executives who would actually step forward and be seen raising money for Trump, even going so far as becoming the campaign's national finance chair.
Before that, though, Mnuchin distinguished himself by making out like a bandit during the worst financial crisis our country has faced since the Great Depression.
This is all well-documented by David Dayen, author of "Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud." In an exhaustive article in The Nation, Dayen chronicles how Mnuchin got fabulously rich while hundreds of thousands lost their homes.
In 2008, Mnuchin made a deal with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). He and his investment group bought a predatory lender named Indy Mac, renaming it "OneWest." They then started foreclosing on homeowners.
While doing that, he "harvested fees for appraisals and inspections and late payments, and got protected by a federal backstop. The FDIC lost $13 billion on Indy Mac; Mnuchin and company made $3 billion in profits."
To make this tidy sum for himself, Mnuchin used something called "servicer-driven defaults." This practice entailed "telling homeowners they must miss payments to get help, and when they do, [the banks] move to foreclose."
The other devious ploy is something called "dual tracking." This is "where servicers negotiate modifications and pursue foreclosures at the same time."
If that were not enough, Dayen cites "a decided racial component. 68 percent of OneWest 36,000 plus foreclosures in California were in non-white areas." In addition, "OneWest was a market leader in foreclosing on the elderly: its subsidiary Financial Freedom carried out a disproportionate number of reverse mortgage foreclosures, which target seniors to suck out their home equity."
Finally, to top it off, OneWest engaged in thousands of "robo signings." This was the odious and fraudulent practice of signing sworn affidavits while not reviewing the documents. Some were signed at "30 seconds a clip." This practice was done "750 times a week on eventually 36,000 plus loans."
Dayen claims that "millions of homeowners were thrown out of their homes based on false documents."
So the long and short of this is that one Steven Mnuchin, who led and sanctioned these horrible business practices, is rewarded with a position that is fifth in the presidential line of succession.
Couldn't Trump find someone who didn't have such a record? Someone who didn't benefit from the misery of others?
The president has demonstrated once again that he so sorely lacks good judgment, and, contrary to his claims, has no apparent skill in picking talented or qualified people to serve our country.
Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner. Previously, he was the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington's NPR affiliate, and later became the political analyst for WTOP-FM, Washington's all-news radio station. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.

Here's Why Treasury Nominee Steve Mnuchin Has Been Called the 'Foreclosure King'

Steve Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, is testifying in a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday. The banker, Hollywood producer, and former Goldman Sachs partner is expected to be grilled on a wide range of topics.
But one subject that’s bound to come up is particularly likely to resonate with everyday Americans: How many people lost their homes unfairly due to Mnuchin’s actions when he was CEO of a bank known as a “Foreclosure Machine”?
In late 2008, while the global economy was collapsing, Mnuchin and some partners purchased the failing bank IndyMac and turned it into OneWest, which grew into the largest bank in Southern California. OneWest developed a reputation as a “Foreclosure Machine,” and Mnuchin himself has been dubbed the “Foreclosure King.”
Earlier this month, a 2013 memo from the California attorney general’s office was leaked indicating that OneWest allegedly engaged in “widespread misconduct” to boost foreclosures, including the backdating of mortgage documents. In light of the memo, the nonprofit watchdog Campaign for Accountability called on the Department of Justice to investigate OneWest for “using potentially illegal tactics to foreclose on as many as 80,000 California homes.”
Millions of foreclosures took place in the aftermath of the Great Recession, but critics say that OneWest stood out compared to other lenders with aggressive tactics and a particularly high foreclosure rate. A ProPublica report released after Mnuchin was nominated to lead the Treasury said that OneWest “was responsible for 16,200 foreclosures on government-backed reverse mortgages, or 39 percent of all foreclosures nationwide, from 2009 through late 2014, even though it only serviced about 17 percent of the loans.”
“Foreclosures happen in an economic crisis. But OneWest was different. It quickly gained a reputation as a foreclosure machine,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said during a recent Senate forum. “Even when compared to the other financial institutions that aggressively and illegally tossed families out of the houses, OneWest was notorious for its belligerence and for its cruelty.”
The Wall Street Journal noted that OneWest Bank started foreclosure proceedings on some 137,000 homes nationwide between early 2009 and the middle of 2015, but pointed out that OneWest accounted for only 1.8% of all foreclosure starts during that period. What’s more, data shows that foreclosures were spiking at subprime giant IndyMac even before Mnuchin and his partners bought the bank, and that a large percentage of the mortgages they acquired were hopeless.
Even so, there is evidence that OneWest preferred simple foreclosures rather than modifying loans to help people keep their homes, again per the Journal:
In a 2011 letter to the FDIC, other regulators and lawmakers, people who said they worked at OneWest claimed it “actually makes more money by foreclosing than they would if they allow loan modification.” The letter said OneWest’s loan-modification staff “routinely shreds loan modification applications” and lies to homeowners when they call OneWest.
Mnuchin’s would-be boss, Donald Trump, also has a history of welcoming foreclosures and real estate market collapses. During the presidential campaign, a segment from a 2006 audiobook from Trump University came to light in which Trump said, “I sort of hope” there’s a real estate crash because “if there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know you can make a lot of money.” (Trump University, a for-profit real estate education venture widely decried as a scamwent out of business and was sued by former students and the New York Attorney General. Soon after winning the election, Trump agreed to pay a $25 million settlement.)
In prepared remarks read at the Senate Finance hearing on Thursday, Mnuchin defended his role at OneWest, claiming that the bank modified loans to help 100,000 clients keep their homes. “I have been maligned as taking advantage of others’ hardships in order to earn a buck,” said Mnuchin, whose net worth has been estimated at about $400 million. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Mnuchin argued against the idea that he “ran a ‘foreclosure machine,’” during the hearing. “This is not true. On the contrary, I was committed to loan modifications intended to stop foreclosures. I ran a ‘loan modification machine.’”

“FORECLOSURE KING” STEVEN MNUCHIN DOESN’T APPRECIATE HIS TOTALLY ACCURATE NICKNAME

The nominee for Treasury secretary wants to know why no one ever brings up all the good stuff he did at OneWest.
JANUARY 18, 2017
BY MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS.
During his time running mortgage lender OneWest, which he bought with a group of investors for pennies on the dollar before selling it for a personal profit of many millions, Steven Mnuchin & Co. foreclosed on more than 36,000 homeowners. Because (1) that’s a lot of people kicked out of a lot houses and (2) everyone loves a good nickname, Mnuchin has earned the moniker, in some circles, “Foreclosure King,” or ”Foreclosure King of California,” if you’re not one for brevity.
And if Mnuchin, whom Donald Trump has nominated to run the Treasury Department, can be honest? It really pisses him off, as do all the other criticisms that have been lobbed in his direction since Trump put him up for the job. That includes, but is not limited to, that leaked memo from the California attorney general’s office alleging that OneWest backdated documents so they could push more foreclosures through. Not to mention the fact that no one has talked about the great, dare he say, saintly work he did running the bank.
Luckily, Mnuchin will have a platform tomorrow during his Senate confirmation hearing to get these gripes off his chest:


ALL CORPORATIONS AND ALL BILLIONAIRES WANT WIDER OPEN BORDERS, FIGHT AGAINST E-VERIFY AND DEMAND AMNESTY TO KEEP WAGES DEPRESSED!


"Since 2009, global dividend payouts have increased by approximately 95 percent, almost doubling in value. The same period has seen an escalating assault on the conditions of the working class, epitomized by the growth of two-tier wage systems among autoworkers in the United States, the uberization of vast sections of the working class via the proliferation of casual and temporary jobs, and the growth of corporations like Amazon, whose profits are based upon the ever-more precise use of automation to increase the conditions of exploitation of their workforce."


Record global dividend payouts fuel rising social inequality

 

A new report published this week by the financial advisory firm Janus Hendersons shows that the world’s largest corporations 
will hand out $1.43 trillion in dividend  payments to their shareholders in 2019, setting a new record.

Ten years after the global financial crisis began in 2008, wages continue to stagnate, poverty is rising, and workers everywhere are lyingly told that there is no money for such elementary social needs as healthcare, education and pensions. At the same time, the class of corporate executives and billionaire shareholders continues to rake in incredible sums of money.
According to the report, which is based on data calculated for the world’s 1,200 largest companies, total dividend payments surpassed half a trillion US dollars in the second quarter of this year, reaching $513 billion. To place this number in context, the amount handed out directly to shareholders in 2019 will be more than the annual economic output of Spain, a country of 47 million people. In just three months, the 20 largest companies alone paid $87.9 billion in dividends, roughly twice the total economic output of Tunisia (population 11.5 million) for an entire year.
Dividends are payments made by companies to their shareholders on a quarterly or annual basis, with every share entitling its owner to receive an amount determined by the company’s board. The money for these payments does not arise out of thin air. It is extracted from the collective labour of the working class. Its source, as Karl Marx discovered more than 150 years ago, is the surplus arising from the difference in value between what the workers are paid in wages and what they produce in the course of their work.
The figures contained in the report demonstrate how the share market serves as a mechanism for the transfer of wealth up the income scale from the working class to the wealthiest sections of society. The overwhelming majority of shares of all these corporations are dominated by a relative handful of investment firms and hedge funds which are controlled by a tiny layer of billionaire and multi-millionaire shareholders.
One hundred years ago, the Russian Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, analyzing the development of imperialism at the turn of the 20th century, noted that an essential feature of this period of capitalist decay was an “extraordinary growth of a class, or rather, a stratum of rentiers, i.e., people who live by ‘clipping coupons,’ who take no part in any enterprise whatever, whose profession is idleness.” Today, the processes then analyzed by Lenin have developed to a far greater level of maturity.

The growth of dividend payments is just one expression of how corporate profits are being used, not to re-invest into productive capital, but for essentially parasitic financial activities to directly enrich the corporate and financial elite.

The financial investment firm Moody’s reported last June that stock buybacks in 2018 by the S&P 500 companies (500 US-based companies that comprise around 80 percent of the US market) had doubled from the previous year to reach $467 billion in the year to March 2019. Stock buybacks occur when companies purchase their own stock in order to artificially inflate their own share price. Their sole purpose is to increase the wealth of shareholders by raising the price of the shares that they own.

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Goldman Sachs data published at the end of July shows that in the 12 months ending March 31, the same S&P 500 spent 103.8 percent of their free cash flow on dividend payouts and stock buybacks. In other words, they spent more than their income in direct handouts to investors over the same period. This is the first time that this has taken place since the period of 2006–2008, in the immediate lead-up to the 2008 financial crash produced by the criminal speculative activities of the corporate and financial elite. In the period since, these activities have not only continued, they have intensified.
The policies of governments around the world are oriented toward the artificial inflation of the share market, with central banks in the United States, Europe and Japan taking on unprecedented levels of debt to maintain the flow of ultra-cheap credit to fuel financial speculation. Prior to 2008, the balance sheet of the European Central bank stood at approximately 1 trillion euros, or ten percent of the economic output of the euro zone. This has since more than quadrupled to 4.7 trillion euros, or 40 percent of output.
The report refutes the lying claims by the same governments that workers must accept the slashing of social programs and conditions because there is simply no money to fund them. For example, dividend payments by French corporations in the second quarter of 2019 reached $51 billion, the highest amount ever. The same week as the report’s release, the French media has been filled with accounts of the “busy week” of President Emmanuel Macron following his return from summer holidays, and the demand that he make progress on his government’s agenda of slashing pensions and completing education reforms to cut spending. But the dividend payouts of the largest French corporations in 2019 alone would cover two thirds of the entire spending on pensions for the year.
Since 2009, global dividend payouts have increased by approximately 95 percent, almost doubling in value. The same period has seen an escalating assault on the conditions of the working class, epitomized by the growth of two-tier wage systems among autoworkers in the United States, the uberization of vast sections of the working class via the proliferation of casual and temporary jobs, and the growth of corporations like Amazon, whose profits are based upon the ever-more precise use of automation to increase the conditions of exploitation of their workforces.
The two processes are, fact, directly connected. The increased exploitation of the working class is the necessary basis for the funnelling of profits into the hands of the super-rich.
For example, Ford Motor Company’s announcement of the layoff of 12,000 workers across Europe at the end of June of this year was greeted with rapture on share markets. Share prices immediately rose by three percent, as the financial investors anticipated that the increased exploitation of the remaining workforce would free up cash for higher dividend payouts and stock buybacks.
This process, however, has depended upon one essential condition: the continued suppression of the class struggle and resistance by workers, which for decades has been carried out by the trade unions, the bought-and-paid-for allies of the companies and governments in every country. Internationally, however, the grip of these pro-corporate tools is breaking up as workers are entering into struggle against intolerable conditions of social inequality and the assault on their jobs and living standards.
The year 2019 has witnessed an upsurge of working-class struggle, from the “yellow vest” protests in France, to teachers’ strikes in the US, to the mass protests in Puerto Rico, Algeria and Sudan, to the growing opposition among US autoworkers to the conspiracy of the automakers and the bribed United Auto Workers union to impose further concessions.
These struggles will continue to escalate. But the precondition for their success is for workers to understand that they face not just one company, union or government, but the entire capitalist system, which depends upon the immizeration of the working class for the enrichment of the elite. The alternative is socialism—the expropriation of the ill-gotten gains of the financial oligarchy and the transformation of the gigantic corporations into public utilities, controlled democratically by the working class, and organized to meet social need.