Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Czars to Serfs: Pay Up and Shut Up
"A Peasant Leaving His Landlord on Yuri's Day," by Sergei V. Ivanov.
A wealth of unnecessary and petty [regulations] here engenders a whole army of clerks, each of whom carries out his task with a degree of pedantry and inflexibility, and a self-important air solely designed to add significance to the least significant employment. He refrains from speaking, but you can see him thinking, more or less: "Make way for me; I am a cog in the mighty machine of state."
-- Astolphe Louis Leonor, the Marquis de Custine, Empire of the Czar: A Journey Through Eternal Russia
“If I’m the bad guy to the average citizen … and their taxes have to go up to cover my raise, I’m very sorry about that, but I have to look out for myself and my membership," grunted Chris Mesley, president of the Albany, New York Police Officer's Union. "As the president of the `local,' I will not accept `zeroes' [no increase in salaries or benefits]. If that means ... ticking off some taxpayers, then so be it."
It would be difficult to find a more candid expression of the parasite class's predatory contempt for the productive than the words that departed Mesley's snout. The police union capo will occasionally remove that appendage from the public trough just long enough to spew demands for an ever-larger share of the wealth produced through the honest labor of others, or to justify some corrupt privilege he claims as a "cog in the mighty machine of state." In all of this he is entirely typical of the army of public employees pillaging what little remains of America's wealth.
A brave resident of Albany who identified himself as "Justin" pointed out in an admirably confrontational speech to that city's Common Council that the city's median annual household income in 2009 was about $33,000. In the same year, Mesley -- who was hired as a patrol officer in 1992 -- received a base salary of $70,289, while also scarfing down at least another $30,000 for serving as union president.
"Chris Mesley is making three times or more the median salary and is complaining that he might not get a raise," Justin observed. "The sense of entitlement of Chris Mesley and all those who think alike has led to the pilfering of state and city coffers. They are like leeches, sucking the taxpayers dry, and that's an insult to leeches. At least leeches know when to let go."
The implacability of Mesley's union is made vivid in the fact that its recently expired contract granted "retroactive raises" of four percent for both 2008 and 2009 -- years during which private sector employment declined and raises were scarce, at best, for those in the productive class.
Special exemption from parking tickets -- one of the myriad ways sheep are fleeced on behalf of the lupine law enforcement caste -- is another of the perquisites and emoluments demanded by Mesley and his comrades.
Unalloyed porcine arrogance: Chris Mesley, president of the Albany Police Officer's Union.
An investigative report compiled by Albany's City Common Council documented the existence of a secret "VIP list" maintained by Mesley's union containing the names of police officers and others who would be given "ghost tickets" -- citations they didn't have to pay -- when parked in ways that would result in fines or towing in cases involving mere Mundanes. Those on the list could be recognized by the presence of a union-created bull's-eye bumper decal.
Mesley insists that he is immune to a Common Council subpoena to testify regarding the "ghost ticket" scandal, and he quite predictably declined to offer testimony when the demand was softened to an invitation.
On the one occasion he deigned to cooperate in the inquiry, Mesley insisted that he wasn't obligated to answer questions dealing with his conduct as president of the local Police Union. Since his "official" duties didn't include traffic enforcement, Mesley simply refused to answer questions about his union's "ghost ticket" racket.
Were a common citizen to display similar non-cooperation, a bench warrant would likely result.
Several years ago, Mesley displayed an atypical investigative zeal as he and his police union comrades, seeking to identify the "mole" responsible for leaking a piece of corrupt police business to the press, illegally obtained information about a private citizen's e-mail account.
Robert W. Berry, a pastor from Boca Raton who until recently lived in Albany, had learned that Mesley's union had intervened with Chief James Turley to reduce the disciplinary suspension of an officer who had turned away a criminal suspect trying to turn himself in. That officer, who was occupied surfing the Web for porn or conducting some other important business, told the suspect to come back later.
Originally given a 30-day paid vacation by way of punishment, the officer -- thanks to Mesley's intervention -- saw that suspension reduced to a single week by Chief Turley.
When Berry learned of this -- most likely from one of the decent and conscientious Albany police officers he counted among his friends -- he fired off an e-mail to the local media. In contrast to the torpid reaction displayed toward the bank robber, the department -- led by Mesley's union -- focused with laser-like intensity on the task of identifying the "mole." After all, it simply wouldn't do for the tax-victim public to know how little service they were getting in exchange for the salaries paid to their purported protectors.
Through means they refused to disclose, and without either a warrant or a subpoena, Mesley and his colleagues were able to obtain Berry's confidential information.
Both Berry and Albany County District Attorney David Soares were infuriated by this Stasi-style violation of privacy. But this is simply the order of things as understood by Mesley and his porcine ilk: He belongs to a class the law doesn't restrain, and Mundanes such as Berry belong to a class the law doesn't protect.
While Mesley has distinguished himself through public displays of abrasive arrogance, his overdeveloped sense of entitlement and reflexive contempt for tax victims are typical of the mentality displayed by statist cogs found all across late imperial America. The machinery of government regimentation and redistribution continues to grow and consume an ever-greater share of our country's ever-depleting wealth.
Forbes magazine reports that the five wealthiest counties in the United States (in terms of per-capita income) can be found in orbit of the Imperial Capital City and Wall Street, which constitute the binary system around which revolve all of the institutions of our imperial system of corporate socialism.
Imagine, if you can stand to, a binary system composed of two omnivorous black holes devouring everything within their joint event horizon, and you'll have a pretty good understanding of how America's welfare-warfare economy operates.
America probably crossed the economic event horizon during the October Revolution of 2008, which saw Congress ratify the creation of a corporatist economic dictatorship within the Treasury Department.
Just as it's impossible for light to escape the gravity well of a black hole, it is impossible to penetrate to the inner workings of the engine of plunder created through the TARP legislation. However, just as we can learn about the conditions that create black holes by examining gamma-ray outbursts, the supernova of corruption that created the TARP singularity resulted in some revealing after-effects.
"To be honest with you, I really hope it blows up," exclaimed an employee of AIG, the worthless insurance and investment conglomerate that was bought with taxpayer money in September 2008. "I think the U.S. taxpayer deserves to lose a trillion dollars over this thing for the way they have behaved."
This outburst took place during a March 2009 conference call between Gerry Pasciucco, the official hired to unwind AIG's financial services portfolio, and employees in the conglomerate's offices in London, Paris, and Hong Kong.
As of May 2009, AIG's financial services sector consisted of "44,000 often complex, long-dated derivatives with a notional value of $2 trillion," according to the Newark Star-Ledger. The key to that description, of course, is the cute little modifier "notional," a word that serves as a three-syllable license to lie. Using exactly the same approach I could claim that my "notional" assets are valued somewhere in the high seven figures, irrespective of the dismal reality reflected in my actual bank balance.
Prior to September 2008, AIG was involved in "insuring" -- by way of credit default swaps -- Goldman Sachs' immensely lucrative and entirely corrupt traffic in sewer-grade mortgage-backed securities. After the bubble burst, AIG was left owing huge sums to its "counter-parties," including Goldman. The federal buyout of AIG was actually a payoff to the insolvent company's counter-parties, beginning with Goldman.
If the insurance company had gone bankrupt, it would have been required to make an equitable distribution of whatever assets it had (which could be rounded up to nothing) among its creditors; this meant that Goldman would have eaten a huge loss. Instead, thanks to the nationalization of the AIG under comrade Bush, 100 percent of Goldman's potential losses were subsidized by the taxpayers.
This represented an interesting update on Marx's famous formula: The Feds had the ability to extract wealth from the taxpayers, and Goldman had the need. AIG provided a convenient conduit for this act of redistribution, and its corporate cadres were just the right kind of public-spirited people to accept huge salaries and bonuses in exchange for rendering such a service.
Oddly enough, those compelled to surrender our wealth weren't terribly as enamored of this arrangement. Some of us loudly expressed that displeasure. According to a transcription of the March 2009 AIG conference call, which was published a few days ago in the Washington Post, AIG's financial services drones are mortified by the uncivilized attitudes and behavior of the firm's critics.
Corporate socialist: AIG financial services director Gerry Pasciucco is the tool second from the right wearing a sportcoat over a Che Guevera t-shirt.
The supposedly unconscionable behavior denounced by unnamed AIG functionary quoted above consisted of public outrage over $100 million in "retention bonuses" -- all of it coming out of the earnings of tax victims -- paid to the firm's employees.
It wasn't enough for the Regime to plunder what wealth remains in the hands of private households -- many of which were once middle class, and are now teetering on the precipice of absolute destitution -- on behalf of Wall Street kleptocrats. The necromancers at AIG who helped transmute bad debts into corporate profits apparently believe that the public should be grateful for the privilege of being expropriated, and that any complaints are acts of aberrant persecution.
One AIG staffer referred to critics of firm as "a bunch of immoral bigots." Another excoriated politicians who had condemned the subsidized bonuses as hypocrites who really ought to dispense with the pretense of public-spiritedness and revel unabashedly in the vulgar rewards of statist opportunism: "They only care about the next election, just like we only care about the next bonus. Well, none of them cares about the country, [just as] none of us cares about the institution. They really don't care, and I really don't care. And frankly, if a trillion dollars gets lost, fine."
AIG's behavior is typical of the new, federally supported Wall Street nomenklatura.
Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, who deserves a Pulitzer for his work but is more likely to be fed a Lubyanka Breakfast, points out that the nation's six largest banks -- all of them on the federal dole -- "set aside a whopping $140 billion for executive compensation last year, a sum only slightly less than the $164 billion they paid themselves in the pre-crash year of 2007." At Goldman Sachs, the de facto shadow Treasury Department, average take-home per-employee compensation was $498,246, "a number roughly commensurate with what they received during the bubble years."
"In an economy as horrible as ours, with every factory town between New York and Los Angeles looking like those hollowed-out ghost ships we see on History Channel documentaries like Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes, where in the hell did Wall Street's eye-popping profits come from, exactly?" Taibbi writes. "A year and a half after they were minutes away from bankruptcy, how are these [emunctory apertures] not only back on their feet again, but hauling in bonuses at the same rate they were during the bubble?"
The answer, of course, is that rather than creating wealth, Wall Street's kleptocrats are carrying out exactly the same fraudulent schemes they pursued before the bubble collapsed; this time, however, they had "the full financial support of the U.S. government" -- which means, of course, official promises to extract as much wealth as possible until the economy is a dessicated, lifeless husk.
It's tempting to refer to our present condition as "serfdom," but that term is a poor fit. Serfs, after all, enjoyed greater economic mobility than we do.
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Dum spiro, pugno!