GOBBLE, GOBBLE, GOBBLE Up Everything -- Call of the One Percenters!
Thanksgiving seems an appropriate time to inventory the crony capitalism cornucopia of the ruling class elite of America.
Here is a generous collection of excerpts from articles commenting on the obscene proliferation of wealth among the top one percent of America -- comments about the rising tide that is lifting their boats (more accurately gigayachts!) and the quicksand they are leaving behind for the rest of us!
Elizabeth Zimmermann in June 2010:
According to a recent study issued by the Boston Consulting Group, the rich are getting richer worldwide despite the deepest financial and economic crisis since the 1930s.
In 2009 the worldwide net assets of private investors in the form of cash, shares, securities or funds increased by 11.5 percent to a total of $111.5 trillion. This is more than equivalent to the losses to the world economy following the onset of the economic crisis in 2008.
In 2008 global net assets plunged by more than 10 percent, or approximately $100 trillion in comparison to 2007. Now the fortunes of the rich and super-rich have accelerated to reach the same level as prior to the outbreak of the international financial crisis that began with the collapse of Lehmann Brothers in September 2008.
In a period when, as a result of the financial crisis, millions of workers all over the world lost their jobs—descending into unemployment and poverty and vastly increasing the pool of the poor—the financial elite were able to increase their fortunes in an obscene manner.
That is the real content of the austerity programs that are now being decided upon and implemented in numerous countries. In Germany the government plans to slash benefits for workers, the unemployed, welfare recipients and pensioners, while the rich and super-rich remain untouched.
This re-division of social wealth did not begin in the autumn of 2008. It had in fact been taking place for three decades and was only intensified and accelerated by the financial crisis.
David Walsh in April 2006:
The accumulation is brazen. What once would have been considered a somewhat discreditable fact of social life, the proliferation of billionaires, is now hailed as a sign of America’s success. The demise of the Soviet Union and the supposed absence of any alternative to capitalism, the putrefaction of the AFL-CIO trade unions, the ignominious collapse of American liberalism and the lack to this point of broad-based, organized political opposition to the ruling elite and its two parties have rendered the American financial aristocracy “dizzy with success.” These people have lost their heads.
In the face of public outrage over oil company profits and soaring gasoline prices, Exxon arrogantly defended Raymond’s hundreds of millions, arguing that they were rewarding the executive’s “outstanding leadership of the business, continued strengthening of our worldwide competitive position, and continuing progress toward achieving long-range strategic goals.” The company added that it considered Raymond’s compensation package “appropriately positioned.”
In a study published in October 2005, three accounting professors reported that negative, even occasionally scathing press coverage, “does not substantively change corporate behaviour with regard to pay packages.” The American establishment is all but impervious to the sentiments of the broad masses of the population. In response to a recent report detailing the immense and growing social gap, a spokesman for New York state’s Business Council told a reporter that the incomes earned by his state’s rich were “something that everybody who cares about New York should be pleased about.”
An insulated world of immense wealth exists as never before, at least in modern US history.
Judging by the results in published reports—no, not particularly. By and large, the fabulously wealthy have derived their fortunes from inheritance, the stock market, the real estate bubble, fortunate investments in technology or, perhaps, American militarism: in short, from semi-automatic economic and social processes associated with the lowering of living standards for millions in the US and the super-exploitation of masses of people in impoverished countries in other parts of the world. They are not startling or outstanding in any fashion, except perhaps in the depth of their greed and shortsightedness.
So we learn that Microsoft’s Paul Allen owns a $250-million, 414-foot “gigayacht,” with seven decks, two helicopter landing pads, a swimming pool, a basketball court, an infirmary, a garage for Land Rovers, a movie theater, a concert space for 260 and a recording studio. Not to be outdone, Larry Ellison of software giant Oracle had his giant yacht built 452 feet long. Ellison’s vessel has five stories, 82 rooms, “a wine cellar the size of most beach bungalows, a dozen yacht-length tenders, and a generator capable of providing enough electricity for a small town in Idaho or Maine... Final cost: $377 million.” (Associated Press)
The wealthy elite are also purchasing their own widebody airplanes, reports Business Week—Airbus A340s and Boeing 777s, which list for over $100 million—as “airborne penthouses.” Customized outfitting may add $25 to $30 million to the cost.
The “supercar” business is also thriving. Ocean Drive, one of the new magazines aimed at the affluent, carries a piece on Michael Fux, whose Sleep Innovations manufactures Memory Foam products. Fux has collected some 50 luxury cars. He recently took possession of a $2 million Ferrari FXX, one of only 20 in the world.
The roll call of the wealthiest Americans a half-century ago included famous names—Rockefeller, Harriman, Mellon, duPont, Astor, Whitney and Ford, along with a quartet associated with General Motors, Alfred P. Sloan Jr., Charles F. Kettering, John L. Pratt and Charles S. Mott. These were all ruthless capitalists, but their fortunes were based, directly or indirectly, on the growth of the productive forces.
Today, the list of the super-rich reveals an extraordinary growth of parasitism. One indication is Forbes’listing of the “400,” which includes an extraordinary number of people whose wealth, according to the publication, is derived from “Investments,” “Hedge Funds,” “Leveraged buyouts,” “Real estate,” “Fashion,” etc. The “captains of industry” of old are few and far between.
One could go on, but the outlines are clear. A type of aristocracy rules America, which has more than one feature in common with the ancien régime that presided over pre-revolutionary France. This vast accumulation of wealth at one pole of society is incompatible, in the long run, with even the trappings of democracy. The super-rich own everything in the US, including the political parties and the political process. They allow the population to vote at this point, more or less. But for how long? As resistance to the policies of the elite mounts and the two-party monopoly threatens to crumble, why should the riffraff be permitted a say in such important affairs as elections?
Tom Eley in December 2010:?
Obama reversed a campaign pledge to retain the tax cuts for the middle class and allow those for families earning more than $250,000 a year—the richest 2 percent—to expire when the tax cuts passed under Bush expire on January 1. Instead, he capitulated to pressure from the financial-corporate elite and the Republicans to extend all of the tax cuts.
The two-year extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy will cost an estimated $150 billion. In the likely event that the cuts are eventually made permanent, between $700 billion and $1 trillion will flow into the bank accounts of the rich over the next decade.
The bill also raises the tax exemption for estates from $1 million to $5 million for an individual and $10 million for a family, and reduces to 35 percent from 45 percent the levy on taxable estate wealth. In addition, the measure extends a Bush-era cut in the capital gains tax and includes a number of other tax breaks for corporations.
To provide Democrats with political cover, the deal includes an extension of federal long-term unemployment benefits until the beginning of 2012, when any continuation of the program will be at the mercy of the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives. It also includes a one-year Social Security payroll tax cut of 2 percent.
The Making Work Pay tax credit will not be extended, and as a result couples making under $40,000 a year or individuals making less than $20,000 will end up paying higher taxes, since the Social Security tax cut will not offset losing the benefit of the expired tax credit program.
The Social Security measure also sets a precedent for raiding the retirement program for general revenue needs.
House Democrats, who made great show after Obama announced the tax deal of diehard opposition, have in recent days been sending signals that they will supply sufficient votes to pass the bill in the lower chamber. Statements by leading House Democrats over the weekend have underscored the utterly cynical character of their supposed opposition to the tax windfall for the rich. What was presented in the media as a “revolt” against Obama’s cave-in was, from day one, political theater designed to throw dust in the eyes of the public.
The Democrats are proposing instead a somewhat less obscene concession to the rich, but a huge concession nonetheless. They want to raise the estate tax exemption to $3.5 million instead of $5 million, while leaving the rate at 45 percent.
Behind the posturing and play-acting, the meaning is clear. The House Democrats will hold a vote on amending the tax bill along the lines of their estate tax proposal, knowing that their version will not pass. This will be done “for the record”—to be able to tell voters that they were defending the middle class while the Republicans were defending the wealthy.
They will then proceed to make sure that the entire deal, as worked out between the White House and the Republicans, passes and is signed into law. The transparency of their ruse only underscores their contempt for the intelligence of the American people.
Massive tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations will increase the federal deficit and the national debt, which will then be seized on as the pretext for mounting an assault on any form of government spending that benefits the working class, including basic entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
As part of his lurch to the right since the Democratic debacle in last month’s midterm election, Obama will meet Wednesday with 20 CEOs from top US corporations. He is holding the meeting to “combat charges over the last several months of being anti-business,” according to one media account.
Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said that on the agenda of the closed-door meeting will be overhauling the tax code, reducing the deficit and “a balanced approach to regulations.” This means huge cuts in high-end income tax and corporate tax rates, unprecedented cuts in social programs, and a further gutting of regulations on big business.
Patrick Martin in June 2011:
The United States is well on its way to becoming the most unequal society on the planet.
The study detailed the vast transformation of the American socio-economic structure over the past 35 years. During this period, the share of national income taken by the top 0.1 percent has quadrupled, rising from 2.5 percent of national income in 1975 to 10.4 percent in 2008. The share commanded by the top 0.01 percent quintupled, soaring from 0.85 percent to 5.03 percent during that same period of time. In raw numbers, that means approximately 15,000 people, the richest of the rich, rake in an average income of $27 million.
The ever-rising pay and perks of corporate CEOs, far from being an “excess,” like a wart on the face, are the principal driver of this widening economic inequality. CEO pay quadrupled during the past 35 years, dovetailing with the increase in the incomes of the top 0.1 percent. While executives and managers comprised 60 percent of these top 140,000 taxpayers, they accounted for 70 percent of the income gain enjoyed by this super-rich stratum over the past 35 years.
Significantly, as the Post summary noted, “These are not just executives from Wall Street, either, but from companies in even relatively mundane fields such as the milk business.” In other words, it is not just a product of windfall profits in financial markets, but a phenomenon that has contaminated all of Corporate America.
The newspaper profiled two CEOs—the current CEO of Dean Foods, and his predecessor of four decades ago—to illustrate the change.
The current CEO, Gregg L. Engles, makes ten times the salary of his predecessor Kenneth J. Douglas (who made $1 million in today’s dollars), lives in a $6 million home in a Dallas suburb, owns a vacation estate near Vail, Colorado, holds membership in four golf clubs and travels in a $10 million corporate jet. While the pay and perks of the CEO of this Fortune 500 company multiplied ten-fold, the Post reported, “The hourly wage rate for the people who process, pasteurize and package the milk at the company’s dairies declined by 9 percent in real terms.”
This illustrates the overall economic process: while the incomes of the super-rich have quadrupled, fueled by the bonanza for CEOs, the living standards of working people have either stagnated or declined.
The United States is now far more unequal economically than any of the advanced industrialized countries of Europe and Asia, its main competitors in the world market. It ranks with some of the most impoverished underdeveloped countries, slightly more unequal than Cameroon and Ivory Cost, less unequal than Uganda.
There are many political observations to be drawn from these figures. There are almost endless contrasts that could be made between the obscene self-enrichment of the ruling elite in this country, and the increase in jobs lost, poverty, foreclosures, homelessness, hunger and untreated health problems. Only last week, a University of Washington study reported widespread declines in life expectancy, particularly for women, with the United States falling from 20th on the international scale to 37th over the past decade.
But one conclusion should be uppermost. What passes for public life in the United States, the political wrangling between the Democrats and the Republicans, is the politics of the top one-tenth of one percent. Hence the obsessive focus on deficit reduction, the demand of the Wall Street money managers, while the needs of tens of millions for good-paying jobs and decent social services like education and health care are ignored.
The two officially recognized political parties represent only those whose share in the national income has been steadily increasing over the past three decades. Both parties defend the capitalist profit system, and their policies serve only to reinforce the cancer of social inequality that infects every aspect of American society.
The United States is not a democracy in any real sense of the word, but a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. There can be no resolution to the problems confronting working people in the US, and indeed the entire world, that does not begin with the expropriation of the vast wealth of this social layer.
Paul Buchheit in January 2011:
The richest 1% ($400,000 or more) didn't work harder than the rest of us. They profited from stock market gains, shrewdly designed financial instruments, and tax cuts.
The very wealthy insist that all their income will stimulate the economy. But low-income earners spend a greater percentage of their overall income on consumption, while high-income earners save more. Middle-class America has been led to believe that the growth at the top will eventually produce more jobs. But many of us have college-educated sons and daughters who can't find suitable employment. Fortune Magazine reported that the 500 largest U.S. companies cut a record 821,000 jobs in 2009 while their collective profits increased to a record $391 billion.
Even the upper class should be concerned about this. As inequality increases, the majority of Americans will consume less, leading to conditions not unlike the years before the Great Depression, when the working class was unable to buy the goods they produced. The rich, with extra money, speculate in risky investments. The majority of middle-class Americans, with little money, go deeper into debt. The result is an unstable economy for all of us.
Who are the people making up the richest 1%? Bankers, CEOs, upper management, university presidents, Congressmen. They live in their own world, supporting each other's needs. They can no longer relate to the needs of average Americans.
Taxing them is not "soaking the rich." The greatest redistribution of income in history has taken place over the last 30 years, and the victims are beginning to make a fuss about it.
Andrea Seabrook in September 2011:
The number of Americans who are millionaires is pretty low — about 1 percent of the population. Members of Congress who are millionaires? Nearly 50 percent.
Of the 435 members of the House, "244 current members of Congress are millionaires — that's about 46 percent and that includes 138 Republicans and 106 Democrats," says Center for Responsive Politics spokesman Michael Beckel.
"We don't know how many political donors are millionaires, but we do know that it takes a certain amount of disposable income to make contributions," Beckel says.
Campaigns are expensive. In 2010, says Beckel, the average winner of a House race spent $1.5 million. The average Senate winner spent close to $10 million. Closely contested races are much more expensive. And about half of that money, on average, comes from an elite group of very wealthy donors.
People who get a lot of attention from politicians and people who have plenty of opportunities to tell lawmakers how they feel about a new millionaires' tax.
"Wealthy Americans have more access to lawmakers than most regular voters and constituents do," Beckel says.
Luke Johnson in November 2011.
Despite the economic recession and declining household wealth, the net wealth of members of Congress continues to rise, according to a Roll Call analysis of financial disclosure forms.
Members of the House and Senate have a collective net worth of $2.04 billion, up from $1.65 billion in 2008. The vast majority of the increase goes to the wealthiest members of Congress, who also account for most of Congress' net worth.
Members' net wealth may be much higher, however, since Roll Call only used the minimum valuation of assets in the range required by disclosure forms, and disclosure forms do not include non-income-producing assets, such as a personal residence.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) reported that his assets were worth at least $295 million. Much of his wealth comes from the money he earned in the car alarm business. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) wealth also increased from 2009 to 2010, from $21.7 million to $35.2 million. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all had multimillion-dollar net worths in 2010.
Erika Lovely in November 2009:
Talk about bad timing.
As Washington reels from the news of 10.2 percent unemployment, the Center for Responsive Politics is out with a new report describing the wealth of members of Congress.
Among the highlights: Two-hundred-and-thirty-seven members of Congress are millionaires. That’s 44 percent of the body – compared to about 1 percent of Americans overall.
CRP says California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is the richest lawmaker on Capitol Hill, with a net worth estimated at about $251 million. Next in line: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), worth about $244.7 million; Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), worth about $214.5 million; Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), worth about $209.7 million; and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), worth about $208.8 million.
All told, at least seven lawmakers have net worths greater than $100 million, according to the Center’s 2008 figures.
“Many Americans probably have a sense that members of Congress aren’t hurting, even if their government salary alone is in the six figures, much more than most Americans make,” said CRP spokesman Dave Levinthal. “What we see through these figures is that many of them have riches well beyond that salary, supplemented with securities, stock holdings, property and other investments.”
The CRP numbers are somewhat rough estimates – lawmakers are required to report their financial information in broad ranges of figures, so it’s impossible to pin down their dollars with precision. The CRP uses the mid-point in the ranges to build its estimates.
Senators’ estimated median reportable worth sunk to about $1.79 million from $2.27 million in 2007. The House’s median income was significantly lower and also sank, bottoming out at $622,254 from $724,258 in 2007.
But CRP’s analysis suggests that some lawmakers did well for themselves between 2007 and 2008, even as many Americans lost jobs and saw their savings and their home values plummet.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gained about $9.2 million. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) gained about $3 million, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) had an estimated $2.6 million gain, and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) gained about $2.8 million.
Some lawmakers have profited from investments in companies that have received federal bailouts; dozens of lawmakers are invested in Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.
Among executive branch officials, CRP says the richest is Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary L. Schapiro, with a net worth estimated at $26 million.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is next, worth an estimated $21 million. President Barack Obama is the sixth-wealthiest, worth about an estimated $4 million....
Dean Baker in October 2011:
By contrast, Alan Greenspan's vision was about getting rich. And plenty of people got very rich under the rein of Alan Greenspan, a disproportionate number of them on Wall Street. When we think of successful people in connection with Alan Greenspan we have to think of people like Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide in its heyday as one of the leading pushers of subprime mortgages. Mr. Mozilo walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars while many of his customers faced foreclosure and his shareholders lost their shirts.
Richard Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers is another hero of the age of Greenspan. Under Fuld' s rein, Lehman Brothers took the lead in packaging into mortgage backed securities (MBS) the loans hawked by Mozilo and his competitors in the subprime market. It apparently did not concern him that many of these loans were fraudulent and would inevitably blow up on both the homeowners and the purchasers of the MBS. Fuld also walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars as his company went down in flames.
And then there is Robert Rubin, another Wall Street multi-millionaire. After leading the charge for deregulation at Greenspan's side as Treasury Secretary, he took a top position at Citigroup. He pocketed over $100 million as Citigroup fell to near bankruptcy -- saved only by government bailouts - also done in by the subprime trash it marketed around the world.
The computer guru of Greenspan's world is Bill Gates, a man who got far richer than Steve Jobs. Gates' secret was not making great products -- the only ones praising his creativity at his funeral will be people on his payroll -- but rather in gaining control of markets. In other decades, the anti-competitive practices he pursued to win Microsoft a near monopoly in the computer market might have landed him behind bars. But in the age of Greenspan they made him the richest person in the world.
Patrick Martin in July 2011:
Proving that President Obama is the first choice of Wall Street and the American super-rich, his reelection campaign announced Wednesday that it had broken all previous records for fundraising, raking in $86 million during the second quarter of this year.
Obama for America, the official name of the reelection effort, raised $47 million, while the Democratic National Committee collected $38 million, largely from fundraising events featuring the president, where big donors are allowed to give up to $30,800 apiece. Individual donations to Obama for America are limited under federal election laws to a maximum of $5,000.
The Obama reelection campaign will be the most lavishly funded in American history. It is expected to dwarf the $745 million Obama raised in 2008, and could top the $1 billion mark. Only two decades ago, $20 million was sufficient to finance a full-scale presidential campaign.
According to press accounts, the Obama campaign has already opened 60 offices in various states around the country, nearly a year and a half before Election Day, and hired hundreds of full-time operatives.
The vast fund-raising comes in two relatively distinct components: over half a million small donors, reflecting lingering illusions in Obama in sections of the population; and large donors, from the wealthy and the most affluent sections of the upper-middle class.
A total of 552,462 individuals gave money during the second quarter, including 260,000 who made no donations during the 2008 campaign. Of these, 98 percent were of $250 or less, with an average contribution of $69. Based on that average, the small donations accounted for less than half the total raised, about $37 million.
The remainder, about $49 million, came in large-dollar contributions, including thousands who gave the maximum of $35,800—$30,800 to the DNC and $5,000 to Obama for America.
The Washington Post noted, “Much of the tens of millions Obama raised through the Democratic National Committee came from big fundraising events that the president attended throughout the spring. Donors to the DNC can give up to $30,800, and many of those who made the maximum contribution got to attend intimate, invitation-only dinners at which the president took their questions behind closed doors.”
Moreover, the total number of small donors was deliberately inflated by a promotion run by the campaign in which anyone who gave as little as $5 was entered into a lottery for a dinner with Obama and Vice President Biden.
The Obama campaign, clearly concerned about releasing information that would demonstrate corporate America’s enthusiasm for the president’s reelection, declined to say how much Obama for America raised from large donors. These numbers will be buried in the 15,000-page report the campaign files Friday with the FEC.
While the 2008 Obama campaign was regularly described as fueled by small donors, the actual figures demonstrate the opposite: Obama did indeed raise $180 million from that source, but that came to less than one-quarter of his overall fundraising. Nearly half of his total—and the bulk of the early money, critical to sustaining his campaign against the initial frontrunner, Hillary Clinton—came from big donors.
Some details of the wooing of big-ticket donors were reported in the Washington press. The Post reported June 29, “Campaign officials are working to broaden Obama’s network of ‘bundlers,’ the well-connected rainmakers tasked with soliciting big checks from wealthy donors, while seeking to preserve the aura of a grass-roots movement by luring back the kind of small Internet donations that helped shatter fundraising records four years ago. Obama has attended 28 fundraisers from coast to coast—a pace that could continue, or even accelerate, over the next several months.”
Politico described one Wall Street fundraising dinner held at Daniel, a top-drawer restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side: “The tables were filled with moneymen like Marc Lasry, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Avenue Capital; Robert Wolf, the chief executive of UBS Group Americas; and Mark T. Gallogly, a co-founder of Centerbridge Partners.”
While noting the absence of Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, this was said to be by mutual agreement—an effort to avoid photographs of the president shaking hands with the CEOs of the largest recipients of federal bailouts.
“While Wall Street executives still complain about the president’s name-calling and pressure for a regulatory overhaul,” Politico observed cynically, “many say privately that his bark has been worse than his bite.”
The event raised $2.3 million in a single evening, far more than the projected $1.5 million. ...
David Walsh in August 2011:
On August 13, billionaire private equity investor Leon Black organized a 60th birthday party for himself at his estate in Southampton, on Long Island, that cost “millions of dollars,” according to an account at CNNMoney. Reportedly, pop singer Elton John, who gave an hour-and-a-half concert for the 200 guests, was alone paid $1 million for his services.
The attendees, reports the New York Times, included financier and “junk bond pioneer” Michael Milken (initially sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1990, he served 22 months)—he was Black’s boss at investment banking firm Drexel Burnham Lambert (which went bankrupt in 1990 in the junk bond scandal); Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs; “billionaire buyout titan” Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group; hedge fund manager and billionaire Julian Robertson; New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, also a billionaire; Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat from New York, and devoted friend of Wall Street; miscellaneous “celebrities,” including fashion designer Vera Wang, Martha Stewart and Howard Stern.
Mr. Black’s home, writes the Times, is “one of the Hamptons most desirable addresses for its panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and Shinnecock Bay. He counts among his neighbors Calvin Klein and David H. Koch, the [extreme right-wing] billionaire industrialist.”
“Mr. Black had his backyard transformed into a faux nightclub setting, constructing a wooden deck over his swimming pool and building a tent for Mr. John’s concert. After a buffet of crab cakes and steak, partygoers sat on couches with big puffy pillows.” The buffet dinner also featured “a seared foie gras station.”
Whatever emotion the gathering may provoke in the reader, one hopes it will not at least be jealousy. This is a dreadful crowd of human beings to have anything to do with.
The Times reports that Black’s firm, Apollo Global Management, “made a killing during the financial crisis. Its big bet on distressed debt at the market bottom in 2009 earned the firm and its clients billions of dollars in profits.” Forbes magazine makes the same point, “During the financial crisis things looked bleak, but Black and Apollo have staged a massive comeback, partly by investing in distressed debt, a longtime specialty.” In other words, Black (a Democratic Party supporter) bet correctly that the Obama administration would expand the looting of taxpayer funds to bail out the banks and cover the bad debts of the financial oligarchy.
Forbes listed Black as the 110th richest person in the US as of March 2011, with a net worth of $3.5 billion. Black has made his fortune by focusing on leveraged buyouts and private equity. He worked for Drexel Burnham Lambert from 1977 to 1990, where he served as managing director, head of the Mergers & Acquisitions Group and co-head of the Corporate Finance Department.
The same piece explained, “In the 1980s, Leon Black was the head of leveraged buyouts at Drexel, which was then designing revolutionary tools in corporate finance. Investors and entrepreneurs like Carl C. Icahn and Boone Pickens were shaking company boardrooms with takeover offers financed by high-yield bonds—a type of sub-investment-grade lending that Mr. Milken of Drexel popularized.”
Black apparently worked quite closely with the disgraced Milken. However, “When Drexel collapsed amid felony charges and scandal in 1990, Mr. Black emerged unscathed.” He went on to found Apollo Management.
Black has been active for decades in the most parasitical and socially destructive of financial operations. The “restructuring” of companies that accompanies leveraged buyouts, mergers and similar operations translates into loss of jobs and incomes and social misery for vast numbers of people. As a result of his efforts, Black is fabulously wealthy. “In 2009, at a Christie’s auction, he paid about $47 million for a chalk drawing by Raphael of a woman’s head,” writes the Times.
Those who work for the firms Apollo controls are not so fortunate as Mr. Black. Employees at Claire’s Stores, for example. The chain, a retailer of accessories and jewelry to girls and young women, does not pay magnificently. A “third keyholder” at Claire’s, i.e., an assistant to the assistant manager, with considerable responsibilities, reports one web site, earns or starts at $8.18 an hour, a yearly pay of $16,520. An assistant manager at Claire’s makes $10.23 an hour. A store manager earns $28,403 a year.
These lavish, pointless, reckless goings-on bring to a great many minds—and rightly so—the examples set by the French and Russian aristocracies in the periods leading up to the great revolutions of 1789 and 1917. (The New York Post described another recent New York party, feting “pharma billionaire” Stewart Rahr, as including “a dessert table fit for Marie Antoinette.”)