Archive for August, 2008

The rich get richer while ordinary people lose their homes

August 28, 2008

 Warren Buffett, Bill Gates  

FORBES REPORTED: “AFTER 13 YEARS ON THE TOP, BILL GATES IS NO LONGER THE RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD. THAT HONOR NOW BELONGS TO HIS FRIEND AND SOMETIMES BRIDGE PARTNER WARREN BUFFETT.” BUFFETT IS NOW WORTH $62 BILLION AND GATES IS WORTH $58 BILLION (PHOTO: NATI HARNIK FOR AP)

  Why is it that the ranks of the ultrawealthy is increasing while ordinary Americans are losing their homes to foreclosesure at a record rate?

     The Aug. 27, 2008 issue of The Wall Street Journal illustrates this point.  At p. D2 there is an article titled “The Ranks of the Ultrawealthy Grow.”  At p. A2 there is an article titled “Glimmer of Hope in Home Prices.” 

     The article on the ultrawealthy stated: “About 47,000 people had a net worth of $20 million or more in 2004, the latest available year, according to new estimates by the Internal Revenue Service.  While that was up only slightly from 46,000 in  2001, it was up 62% from 29,000 in 1998.”

     The article about the “larger upper crust” included these figures:

     Net worth of $2 million to less than $3.5 million — 846,000 persons with a total of $2.169 trillion.

     Net worth of $3.5 million to less than $5 million — 247,000 persons with a total of $1.024 trillion.

     Net worth of $5 million to less than $10 million — 231,000 persons with a total of $1.563 trillion.

     Net worth of $10 million to $20 million — 79,000 persons with a total of $1.085 trillion.

     Net worth of $20 million or more — 47,000 persons with a total of $2.591 trillion.

     The article stated that IRS data made available earlier this year disclosed that “the nation’s top 400 taxpayers by income reported total income of $85.6 billion on their federal income-tax returns for 2005 — an average of nearly $124 million apiece.”  (Emphasis added.)

     The article on home prices stated that during June 2008 the prices of homes in 10 major metropolitan areas fell 17 percent from June 2007.  It added that there was a 10.1 month supply of houses for sale at “the current sales pace” and that “the number of unsold homes remains at historically high levels.”  [NOTE — a six-month supply of unsold homes is normal for “healthy housing markets.” 

     “Economists caution that home sales and prices may have worsened in recent weeks as mortgage conditions have tightened, lending rates have risen and concerns about the solvency of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have intensified,” the article on home sales said.

     “Sales of previously-owned homes make up about 85% of the market and have been  hampered by a flood of foreclosed properties that’s expected to continue through next year,” the article stated.  (Emphasis added.)

     While presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has no plan on how to assist Americans from losing their homes, he continues to maintain that President George Bush’s tax cuts for upper income Americans should remain in force.

Photo Credits:mbmatt356 at Flickr (Cleveland home) and **Mary**’s photostream at Flickr (Calfornia mansion)

ABANDONED HOMES AFTER BEING FORECLOSED

CLEVELAND, OHIO: ABANDONED HOMES AFTER BEING FORECLOSED

CALIFORNIA MANSION SOUTH OF DEL MAR, CA

CALIFORNIA MANSION SOUTH OF DEL MAR, CA

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Georgia — not Russia — initiated violence in South Ossetia

August 24, 2008

    GEORGE.BUSH.PUTIN.RE.GEORGIA

GEORGE W. BUSH WITH VLADIMIR PUTIN IN BEIJING; MR. PUTIN ACCUSED THE U.S. OF HELPING GEORGIA (PHOTO: REUTERS; APPEARING IN MAIL ONLINE, LONDON)

Like most Americans, I was led to believe that Russia unjustifiably invaded Georgia on August 7th.  That is what was portrayed in the mainstream press in the United States.

     Why would the press want to intentionally mislead Americans?   (The media did, in fact, mislead us.)  Russia was not the aggressor; Russia responded with force in defense of innocent residents of South Ossetia. 

     “The coverage of the western media has been abysmal,” wrote Mike Whitney in an article that appeared in Counterpunch.  “Nearly every article and TV news segments begins with accusations of Russian aggression concealing the fact that the Georgian Army bombarded and invaded the capital of South Ossetia one full day before the first Russian tank even crossed the border.  By the time the Russians arrived, the city was already in a shambles and thousands were dead.”

     The Washington Post did allow an op-ed piece by former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, who wrote in part: “For some time, relative calm was maintained in South Ossetia.  The peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians fulfilled its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, who live close to each other, found at least some common ground. . . . What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension.  The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali and with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. . . . Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different nationalities, are now clear.  The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and envouragement of a much more powerful force.  Geogian armed forces were trained  by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was brought in a numerof countries.  This, coupled withthe promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian  leaders into thinking  that  they could get away with a ‘blitzkrieg’ in South Ossetia. . . . Russia had to respond.  To accuse it of aggression against ‘small, defenseless Georgia’ is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.”

     President Bush has used Georgia to taunt Russia.  Mr. Bush attempted to obtain NATO membership for Georgia.  (Mr. Bush promised NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine at the last alliance mmeting in Bucharest, Romania.)  Fortunately, such NATO membership has been turned down to date.  Mr. Bush has already caused the United States to be involved in two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) and threatened to get the United States in a third war with Iran.  Taunting Russia is very foolish, indeed.  (Vice President Cheney stated that “Russian aggression must not go unanswered.”)

     The misleading of the American people about the real reason for the conflict in Georgia caused a bump in the polls in favor of Senator McCain.  Mr. McCain’s rhetoric against Russia was perceived to be proper only because the American people have been wrongly told that Russia is to blame for the conflict.

Photo Credits:

Georgian tanks (Irakli Gedenedze for Reuters)

Georgian artillary (Vano Shlamov for AFP)

GEORGIAN TANKS MOVE ALONG A ROAD NEAR THE SOUTH OSSETIAN CAPITAL

TSKHINVALI, SOUTH OSSETIA: GEORGIAN TANKS MOVE ALONG A ROAD NEAR THE SOUTH OSSETIAN CAPITAL

GEORGIAN ARTILLARY TROOPS FIRE AT SOUTH OSSETIAN TROOPS FROM UNNAMED LOCATION

GEORGIAN ARTILLARY TROOPS FIRE AT SOUTH OSSETIAN TROOPS FROM UNNAMED LOCATION