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Class War For Idiots / September 28, 2009
By Mark Ames


Can someone get me my beta blockers? You have to have a bottle of something close by if you dare to read the financial news on any given day. Like, oh, say, Monday, the Day of Atonement: Businessweek reports that over in the rigid class-based United Kingdom, even they have the guts to reign in the banker class, with new plans to ban annual banker bonuses:

British Treasury chief Alistair Darling said Monday that annual bonuses for bank executives will be outlawed in an attempt to curb excessive risk-taking in the country’s huge financial sector.

Darling told the governing Labour Party’s annual conference that new legislation to restrict how the payments are made will be introduced in Parliament within weeks.

Meanwhile in the United States, which was founded as a meritocracy-based antidote to the United Kingdom, overthrowing the stifling class system of King George’s England…over here, we’re the last suckers in the Western world too in awe of our Wall Street plutocrats to dare upset their gravy train, according to Reuters:

President Barack Obama‘s “pay czar” said on Friday he will not cap compensation for the top employees at bailed-out companies, and will not reveal names, when he releases the first wave of decisions within a few weeks.

That’s right, this is a free country by gum! We’re free to get poorer by the year, and if there’s one thing we’re still Number One at, it’s that no Western country’s middle class gets poorer with more enthusiasm than 21st century Americans. No one sees their share of wealth constantly fall further and further behind the super-wealthy, no one watches them transfer our wealth into their offshore bank accounts better than we do, according to the AP:

The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans – those making more than $138,000 each year – earned 11.4 times the roughly $12,000 made by those living near or below the poverty line in 2008, according to newly released census figures. That ratio was an increase from 11.2 in 2007 and the previous high of 11.22 in 2003.

Household income declined across all groups, but at sharper percentage levels for middle-income and poor Americans. Median income fell last year from $52,163 to $50,303, wiping out a decade’s worth of gains to hit the lowest level since 1997.

That last bit needs to be repeated: the wealthiest 10 percent earn a bigger share of wealth now, in the crisis, than at any time on record! While the average American’s income dropped to where it was 12 years ago.

And the worst thing of all…is that we seem to like it this way.


This American fantasizes about fighting for his freedom from Islamo-commies. Meanwhile, Wall Street plutocrats rob his house every single night, and he doesn’t do a damn thing about it.

If you thought this sort of feudal tendency collapsed with the financial crisis and the “socialist” Obama Presidency, you, sir, ma’am, are…well, you’re just another American sucker, that’s all.  You forgot that you live in an oligarchy, and that means all of us, and this entire country, are little more than a playground/casino for the super-wealthy barons who lord over us. It isn’t our country anymore; it’s theirs. Only that could explain why, even as the crusty class-based Brits are reigning in their bankers, over here, the bankers are running wild again, gambling taxpayer bailout billions on the very same derivatives that destroyed the global economy in the first place:

U.S. commercial banks earned $5.2 billion trading derivatives in the second quarter of 2009, a 225 percent increase from the same period last year, according to the Treasury Department.

More than 1,100 banks now trade in derivatives, a 14 percent increase from last year. Four banks control the market: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citibank account for 94 percent of the total derivatives reported to be held by U.S. commercial banks, according to national bank regulator the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

The credit risk posed by derivatives in the banking system now stands at $555 billion, a 37 percent increase from 2008. “By any standard these [credit] exposures remain very high,” Kathryn E. Dick, the OCC’s deputy comptroller for credit and market risk, said in a statement.

You look at this and you really have to ask yourself: how much rape and pillage can the American peasantry take? How insanely passive can we possibly be? Are we shooting for some kind of world record in the “Raped & Looted Marathon”? Are we out to beat the notoriously passive Russian serfs’ record of taking it and taking it? Because remember, even the downtrodden Russian peasantry had a breaking point. What could possibly get Americans to stand up for themselves and fight?

Oh yeah, sorry, forgot: if you offer Americans health care, they’ll definitely fight you. To the death.

Update: I should have added that the United Kingdom is just one of several European countries that’s moving to limit insane banker compensation. According to an AP article earlier this month:

STOCKHOLM — Seven European countries on Friday called on G-20 leaders to put together strict limits on bonuses to bank executives, calling excessive payouts not only “dangerous” but also “indecent, cynical and unacceptable.”

In a joint opinion piece in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter the finance ministers of Sweden, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands said risks related to payouts should be surveilled very strictly.

“Bonuses guaranteed for more than a year should be banned. Bonuses should be paid out over a number of years and should mirror the individual’s and the bank’s actual performance over time,” the ministers wrote.

“We have to stop some financial actors from returning to the same destructive behavior as before,” they wrote. “We have to be very clear: this behavior is not just dangerous, it is indecent, cynical and unacceptable. It is a punch in the face of all the people who are quickly becoming unemployed.”

The initiative follows a similar move Thursday by the leaders of France, Germany and Britain. In a joint letter to the Swedish government — which currently holds the rotating European Union presidency — France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain’s Gordon Brown and Germany’s Angela Merkel said it was especially important to forge international rules to rein in traders’ bonuses.

So let’s get this straight: Old Europe, birthplace of medieval feudalism, has the political testicles to bring its banker-class to heel. The reason the Europeans moved to a single position on banker bonuses earlier this month was because they knew they’d have to negotiate with the United States of Oligarchs–in other words, they’d be negotiating with a banker-run oligarchy, rather than a democracy like what they have in Old Europe. See, no matter how hard the Europeans work to reign in their bankers, it’ll all be in vain if America doesn’t get some control over Wall Street.

So guess what happened at the negotiations last week in the G20 meetings? Guess who fucked it all up for the world?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy had threatened to walk out of the meeting unless leaders agreed to impose a specific “ceiling” on bankers’ compensation as a way to curb irresponsible risk-taking. The idea of a hard cap on bankers’ bonuses had been rejected by the United States, and leaders are working toward a joint statement that calls more generally for restraints on pay.

Yup, we’re the pigs, folks. The last thing America wants is to do anything that might piss off its ruling class.

The punchline in all of this is an old Wall Street propaganda campaign, which seems to be picking up steam lately, to blame the whole crisis not on the way they overleveraged and destroyed the financial system, but rather, on China, whose sin was that they saved too much money, which then was foisted on the poor hapless Wall Street bankers, who then had no choice whatsoever but to create all the toxic mortgage instruments that destroyed the economy. It’s the most bizarre, counter-intuitive bullshit line imaginable, but since the same deluded sociopaths who drove the economy to ruin are still gainfully employed in the same banks, what else can you expect but counter-intuitive bullshit from these conmen as they ramp up for another mass-looting? What, you expected them to reform their behavior all on their own, like Mr. Magoo’s Scrooge character?

Late-Late Udpate: Even frickin Slovenia has the cajones to tax its bailout queen bankers! Gah! We should bury our heads in shame, and we would too, if our banker-rulers asked us to. But we’re more useful pretending that there’s nothing to be ashamed about.

Mark Ames is the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine.

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Add your own

  • 1. Brad  |  September 28th, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    I love your writings Ames, but I wonder-

    do the retarded, gun-wielding nutjub Michelle Malkin-reading retards love them?

    When your views are communicated to the fanatical “kill Obama” Hannity crowd, do they react like, “wow, you’re so right,” or do they simply call you a Communist and Islam-lover and threaten to kill you?

  • 2. Rob  |  September 29th, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Unfortunately our bankers here in the UK will still be getting their bonuses – but in shares in the company rather than cash. These shares will only be saleable after a period of several years, meaning that the bankers will have an interest in the company they work for and won’t take such insane risks.

    It’s a sensible move to promote responsible banking, not a much needed revenge strike against the plutocrats.

  • 3. SweetLeftFoot  |  September 29th, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Good post. The ability of the American Right to con people into supporting measures that are not in the economic or personal interest is one of the greatest political tricks of all time.

  • 4. Eddie  |  September 29th, 2009 at 1:25 am

    Americans have no collective ethos. It’s all about the individual. There has never been a better people to divide and conquer over. They will simply not risk their own life for a fellow man. Just give them low gas prices and a reasonable tax rate and they will support you even though the neighbour is starving.

  • 5. fajensen  |  September 29th, 2009 at 2:25 am

    There is now way in hell that Gordon Brown will do anything against his bankster friends – its just talk, passing the time!!

    Come the next election he will be out on his arse & elbows and in dire need of a well paid consultancy position within private industry.

    Quid pro Quo!

  • 6. Morgan  |  September 29th, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Like William Appleman Williams and Gore Vidal like to point out, the American Revolution was no such thing. It was more properly a coup d’etat. And why was it that Marx thought revolution was impossible in America? Too ethnically diverse. Without any chance of overturning the oligarchy, let’s celebrate the global multi-ethnic monoculture, make feminism a rationale for imperialism, and call ourselves progressive. Americans don’t want revolution, they are just shocked when the oligarchy excludes *them*. Exploitation is done to other people, right?

  • 7. fajensen  |  September 29th, 2009 at 5:34 am

    these shares will only be saleable after a period of several years, meaning that the bankers will have an interest in the company they work for and won’t take such insane risks.

    Those shareholder incentive plans worked soo well for Enron and most of the other dot-bombs!

    Instead of letting the crooks go bankrupt and lose their jobs or enforce the law and put them in jail we merely give them more chips to gamble with!

  • 8. Dave  |  September 29th, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Don’t hold your breath re. the UK: We don’t call them Liebour for nothing. As I understand it the proposals link bonuses to long term risks. Since the banks were unable to assess the long term risk of the housing market failing (aka a ‘recession’) then, what makes Darling think bankers can do it now, even assuming they wanted to? We too live in a country where greed is seen as socially acceptable: market power a right and not an abberation.

  • 9. DarthFurious  |  September 29th, 2009 at 6:15 am

    America has always had a government of our wealthy masters, by our wealthy masters, for our wealthy masters. Our ruling class has never changed. What has changed is the ruled class.
    Once upon a time, Rockefeller Sr. told congress that he couldn’t mine coal in Colorado without machine guns. Once upon a time the Army of the Potomac had to march thru Philadelphia and shoot people back to work. It used to routinely require the national guard to break strikes. But those people, people like my great grandfather, people with spines, are dead and buried. Their children and grandchildren sold their souls to the company store for shiny trinkets and blinking lights.
    Wither democracy…

  • 10. Needs to Be Liberated  |  September 29th, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Will someone come and liberate us? It’s not as if we’re ever going to do it ourselves. Isn’t there some hyper-power out there that will take us over and fix us?

  • 11. Allen  |  September 29th, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Well said Darth.

    … Destiny still wait’n on the day the Red banners of Labour fly once again.

  • 12. Aaron  |  September 29th, 2009 at 10:54 am

    I hope you’re fucking kidding. Even starting from where we are now, I can’t think of a thing that’d fuck us up worse than an invasion and occupation.

    …you know, I used to think nobody’d ever dare invade the United States, because it’s just too much area with too many people per square mile to ever effectively control. Now I just shake my head — after seeing the way we just bend over and take it, over and over and over again as often as our masters expect us to, shit, why *not* invade the United States?

    Aside, of course, from the fact that we’re rapidly running out of anything that a foreign occupier might want, unless somebody develops an efficient method of processing bad debt directly into petrochemical fuel.

  • 13. DarthFurious  |  September 29th, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Yes there is, my child. All you have to do is embrace the dark side of the for — er, uh, I mean, jesus christ.
    Of course.

  • 14. Quadrillion Dollar Man  |  September 29th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    As if capping Bankers salaries is going to stop them putting public money in their pockets? You don’t stop piracy by capping how much booty the pirates get at the end of the run. They’ll just bury the stuff along the way.

    The only way to stop them is to starve them: kill the central banks, end leverage and carry trades from made up money.

  • 15. hajime  |  September 29th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Ames, Is that you in a beard holding up that sign?

  • 16. Rosa  |  September 29th, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Speaking of class war, there is a real backlash going on against that “Free Polanski” Hollywood petition. A lot of people are just finding out that showbiz cats think they get to make up their own rules. I wish they felt this sort of rage against the bankers and health insurance companies, but this is America after all.

    There does seem to be a new inchoate class rage being expressed regarding this story right now. I have no idea if it signals any sort of change.

  • 17. Plamen Petkov  |  September 30th, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Tom the Dancing Bug said it way better and funnier and more concise in his recent cartoon:

  • 18. prole  |  September 30th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    So the question now is, who could possibly save America? I think some bizzare hybrid of Eugene Debs, Michael Collins and Uncle Ho would be best.

  • 19. Peter  |  October 1st, 2009 at 4:29 am

    We can’t outlaw every form of being a stupid greedy fuck, so first off the government should NEVER put money into casino’s of any sort, and secondly we need mass indoctrination of moral Christian values to shrink the pool of small time greedy idiots who keep giving the big time greedy idiots their money.

  • 20. wengler  |  October 1st, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    We need a mass general strike and we need to go to where our overlords live. They tend to hide so anybody who knows please share.

    This is America. The oligarchs will KILL you for stepping out of line, but if enough people do it we WILL WIN. I think the biggest problem today is that people aren’t willing to engage in the kind of tactics that are successful in this type of environment. Media management makes marching a picketing quaint and useless. Petitions and letters are even more noise that can be rejected very easily out of hand.

    What we need now is systemic harassment of the people in power in every part of their lives. They have spent their whole lives creating a bubble where only certain people are allowed to exist-now is the time to pop that bubble now and forever. There is only a short window of time where this type of change is possible. The wealthy are currently only partially compounded behind walls in great estates. The time that their houses’ grounds are patrolled by Blackwater with submachine guns will be too late.

  • 21. Maya  |  October 19th, 2009 at 11:29 am

    What we need to do is TAX WEALTH. The idea of taxing income is a red herring to protect the truly wealthy, the mega-rich. Tax those whose wealth is massive. Neither party wants to do so however, since taxing the mega-rich would end their careers financed by this money. Taxing the schlub who makes $150,000 and works and lives in a metro area is senseless. People barely make it in metro areas on that money. Tax the Soros and Gates and Waltons, the Paul Allens.

  • 22. Trevor Bacon  |  October 19th, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Perhaps the American people should take up Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert suggestion of starting a peasant party in America. Could it be worse than what’s happening now? At least the relationship between the rulers and the ruled would be more honest. forget Democracy, it’s dead.

    Long live Servitude.

  • 23. Alan D. James  |  October 29th, 2009 at 11:02 am

    The oft repeated argument for these obscene bonuses is that they have to be paid in order to keep the talent of the bankers on board.

    My question is this: Given the disaster that has befallen the world, what talent?

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