Billionaires and Bidenomics

Ed Raymond

Remember when Mission Impossible instructions self-destructed in 5 seconds?    

Some Democrats, including a few of his closest advisers, are forgetting what got Joe Biden elected in 2020. He never had a personal political platform to run on except for the fact he had 44 years of experience getting elected senator and vice-president.

He had one skill: cozying up to those who voted for the majority in Delaware. He strapped on Senator Bernie Sanders’ full backpack of democratic ideas and won by seven million votes – or 44,000 Electoral College votes nationally. Bernie’s messages about economic inequality and cogent  issues won the day.  

Ever since Sleepy Joe walked a picket line with United Auto Workers Union, some of his “moderate” advisors are urging him to “state bluntly” that he wants businesses to succeed in order to rally CEOs to his side. C’mon! How many greedy CEOs are going to vote for Joe Biden? Five percent? Moderate and conservative members of the Democratic National Committee must remember that about 85 million poor and middle-class eligible voters did not enter a voting booth in the last presidential election.

These poor and middle-class nonvoters must be convinced to vote for a Democratic administration pledging better salaries, benefits, housing, childcare, healthcare, unions, sick leave, parental leave – and make them part of society again. To ensure that our democracy has survived January 6, the Democratic candidates, whether Biden-Harris – or John Kasich-Gretchen Whitmer, or Andy Beshear-Keisha lance Bottoms, or Mark Kelly-Amy Klobuchar, or Jaime Raskin, or Pete Buttigieg- Michelle Obama (suggestions by New York Times letter writers!!), can “landslide” The Donald or some other psychopathic morally blind fascist toddler.  

Has Biden ever muttered the most important words in the 2024 campaign?    

I try to listen to all of Biden’s speeches but even his vocal cords are older than normal. I have never heard him mutter the words “economic inequality,” the most important words in the campaign package. Here are just a few critical facts from an article by Liz Theoharis called “Abandoning the Poor: Or Confronting the Scourge of Poverty”:  

“Extreme economic inequality….may be particularly evident in cities like New York, but it’s a fact of life nationwide. In September 2023, the wealth of America’s 748 billionaires rose to $5 trillion, $2.2 trillion more than in 2017, the year the Trump administration passed massive tax changes favoring the rich.

The new 2022 census data 0ffers a very different picture of life for the nation’s poor in those same years. In fact, the numbers are eye-popping: between 2021 and 2022 alone, the overall Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) rose by nearly 5%, while child poverty doubled in size.” We keep hearing from Biden about the great “I’m not kidding!” economy he has created.

The problem is it’s dominated by the rich!   The financial capital of the world has the most unequal congressional districts in the country, ranging from “Billionaire’s Row” in Manhattan to the rat-infested hovels of The Bronx and northern boroughs. Near Manhattan’s Central Park are skyscrapers with penthouses in the clouds selling for up to $150 million.

“Billionaire’s Row” is a place where the superrich of the Divided States of America and the world, who have more money than they know what to do with, buy lavish, sky-high homes as speculative investments, tax avoidance schemes, dirty money laundries, or just to say they have an apartment near Central Park. They are bought by oil-rich Saudi princes and Putin’s oligarchical buddies. Some sit there and are never lived in while thousands of homeless New Yorkers go to their shelters, tents, or park benches to spend a restless night.

A Bronx congressional district is the poorest district in the entire nation. The wealthiest 20% of Manhattan households earned an average of $545,549 in 2022 while the bottom 20% of households earned an average of only $10,259. Nearly 20% of public housing residents in New York City make less than $10,000 while the median household income dropped 7% to $75,000.  

Why do smash-and-grab billionaires spend millions on the Trumplican Party?    

The One Percent live in a different world on the same planet as the Ninety-Nine Percent. They don’t fear crime because they can just hire more security or buy judges. They live on estates in gated mansions with safe rooms and are protected by private security. When they travel, they ride in an armored limo or a helicopter to get to the airport. They board a private jets without going through airport security or even showing an ID, and then fly to where their superyacht is moored.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon has two superyachts and owns more private bathrooms than anybody else on earth. Yachts are back as the symbol of the “I’ve got more money than you” crowd. Yachts were a big deal in the Gilded Age more than a hundred years ago but disappeared during the Great Depression and World War II. Now they’re back as a highly visible (sometimes well over 500 feet!) indicator of wealth-and inequality.

My favorite economist Paul Krugman agrees: “We’re living through the greatest boom in the yacht business that has ever existed.” Perhaps we will also die from it.   If the billionaires are doing business in New York, they will probably meet other businessmen and agents at one of a half-dozen restaurants where the lunches start at $800 a plate—before the three martinis, tips. and taxes.

The five top executives of the DSA’s largest corporations have a total of $9 billion in tax-free retirement funds—while 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.   Central Park One Percenters send their kindergartners to private schools that cost from $65,000 to $80,000 a year. When it comes time for college, Harvard, Yale or Princeton will hope to get the teenager so the parents can provide a new building on campus or remodel a classic.

A freelance writer still remembers the One Percenter who agreed to have an interview over lunch, so the billionaire rented the entire restaurant so they could have a quiet peaceful interview. This guy will most likely not be one of the rich who is interested in saving the world from poverty or climate change. I wonder what he thinks about the 10-year-old Ohio girl who was raped by an uncle and needs an abortion.  

Private equity firms buy businesses, fire a whole bunch of employees, sell parts of the businesses and real estate, and strip them down to bare bones. The three largest equity firms, headed by CEOs who often casually spend over a million celebrating their birthdays, employ more than two million people, while all equity firms in the U.S. now employ over 11 million.

If you want to know more about how disaster capitalism operates, read Kim Phillips Fein’s article “Conspicuous Destruction” in the October 13 issue of the New York Review of Books. He reviews two books: Plunder: Private Equity’s Plan to Pillage America by Brendan Ballou and These Are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs—and Wrecks—America by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner. They not only buy businesses, equity firms have also bought the Trumplican Party and the politicians who make it run.  

Why do 37% of registered voters say we are failing as a nation?    

Perhaps one reason is that mortgage payments in heavily populated areas have doubled in just the last four years. The average monthly mortgage payment in the Divided States of America is now $1,856. In New York City it is $2,900, and in Los Angeles County it is a horrific $4,569.

In several California cities, starter homes are selling for $1 million. Maybe that’s why California now has one-third of the 600,000 homeless per night in the DSA. V

iews on what direction the country is going depend upon the economic environment. During the Bush Recession of 2008 it reached a peak when 81% said the direction was wrong. In 2023, 85% of Republicans agree it’s going in the wrong direction, but only 46% of Democrats agree. That’s politics for you. It depends upon who is in the White House.  

Both parties should recognize the country is going in the wrong direction when facts say children are the Americans most threatened by eviction laws. As an example, 25% of Black babies and toddlers live in rentals and are at the highest risk of eviction each year. These households are led by single mothers, ages 20-35. Nearly 30% of American children live in single-parent households.

Men now average 30 before marrying and women average 28. When Corky and I were married 69 years ago the average age for both was about 20. With 33% of 45 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 owing thousands of dollars of student debt, many can’t marry, buy cars, buy homes, and sometimes must live in their parent’s basement. Another fact: when COVID halted student debt payments, 33% of those borrowers opened credit card debt!  

Wall Street investment and equity firms have bought hundreds of thousands of single- family homes across the country and are planning to own 40% of the rental market (7.6 million homes) by 2030. They are dramatically increasing rents in the Sun Belt. In the last three years single family home rents increased by 44% in Tampa, 43% in Phoenix, and 35% in Atlanta.

And equity firms make lots of money because they don’t fix anything when something goes wrong. They are being sued by individuals and cities to fix stuff. This whole thing started when banks and equity firms bought foreclosed homes during and after the Bush Great Recession.  

Ten questions that should be answered by the 2024 elections    

Thom Hartmann in his article “Do Billionaires Really Give a Rat’s Ass About “Woke” Issues?” asks ten questions:

1. Will we allow global warming to continue to kill our citizens and cost us taxpayers hundreds of billions in cleanup and repairs every year?

2. Will we continue to let our teachers and government workers be intimidated by a small minority of bigots, Nazis and haters?

3. Will we perpetuate the slaughter of our children in the face of the highest civilian gun ownership rates in the world? 

4. Will we keep young people chained to the debt they incurred just trying to get an education just so they, too, can partake in the American Dream?

5. Will we let corporations block even more workers from the right to form and join unions?

6. Will we force all American women, both Red-and-Blue-state, into second class status under the thumbs of male judges, legislators, bounty-hunting neighbors, and family members?

7. Will we maintain policing systems that routinely murder people of color and protesters with only rare consequences?

8. Will we look the other way while Republicans and a handful of bought-off Democrats work to gut Social Security, further privatize Medicare and put onerous work and byzantine paperwork requirements on Medicaid?

9. Will we go along with the construction of more for-profit prisons, for-profit schools,and the expansion of child labor?

10. Or will we work together to create a nation – and a world – that works for all?    

Use this list if shopping for a candidate!