Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Extortion - by another Name (2.13.09)

I never thought much about bonuses till recently, when taxpayer money was used to fund them.  And today I am applying the same reasoning which proved so helpful in understanding indulgences to this new topic - with interesting results.  Indeed, you may come to see that a bonus is kind of like an indulgence.  A scam by another name.

Taxpayers, to my knowledge, have funded two kinds of bonus.  One kind, I've realized, is a bribe.  The other kind, I believe, is extortion.  And both kinds are given to classes of people who have been renamed as "special."  Indeed, I wonder if the renaming is part of the bribery here.  Call them something special:  It's part of the scam on the taxpayer.

One kind of bonus is for special people called heroes, and sometimes our finest and bravest. Though heroes, some must apparently be lured into staying heroes by something called the signing bonus.  Because apparently they might leave in droves, unless bribed to sign this paper for another term of voluntary service.

Mind you, I am not denigrating their bravery or status as heroes, just pondering that society must bribe some people to be its brave heroes.
Something seems fishy here.  In my childhood it was different, you see.  Nobody was bribed.  They were just forced.  Now they call it voluntary.  But they have to bribe them to volunteer.  Do you notice the similarity with indulgences?  (If you volunteer to go to confession, you can get an indulgence.)

I mention that because not all heroes need bonuses (indulgences).  For example, our first responders, police and fire fighters and medical personnel.  These folks apparently will not leave their jobs in droves.  No bribery needed.  They are brave and heroic but never bribed.   First responders are true volunteers.  Yes, we pay them.  But we don't need to bribe them to stay.

Not that I'm blaming the ones who accept the signing bonus, mind you.  We, the taxpayers, put them in that position.  Maybe we want to rethink that.  And rethink war too.  But I digress...

The second type of bonus has me aghast.  This kind of bonus didn't even happen via the Congress passing a law or by government regulation.  Nope, this kind happened by a type of theft.  Taxpayer money was taken and paid to people who call themselves the best and the brightest.  Notice the special term again.  These folks, just like the heroes, would apparently leave their jobs too.  But in this case they use that as a threat.  They expect a bonus as a price for staying.  To me that's extortion.  We taxpayers are being extorted by a certain class of people - to the tune of twenty billion dollars!

Extortion is a crime.  So is theft.  To my mind the extortionists are folks who figured out how to fashion fancy financial fluff into stuff they sold right and left, which is now worthless.  The so-called best and brightest thieves.  The ones who engineered this worldwide financial mess.  Those are the ones who expect a bonus.  A taxpayer bonus.  On top of high salaries.  Half a million being too low.
Now I don't know about you.  But I feel kind of sad for the heroes lured into the signing bonus because they're actually doing work for the taxpayer.  They're not out to rob us.  And indeed they do real hero work.  But it does make me sad that they pretend these folks are volunteering, when really we're paying them a bribe.

On the other hand I am mad as a hornet at these other folks, who decided to call themselves the best and the brightest.  And who demand, who extort, billions of dollars - when they've already robbed and cheated millions of people, using fancy financial fluff fashioned to fool folks - to the tune of trillions lost!



Now I realize that some may attack me here for daring, in part, to take on the topic of the military - but I'd like to remind us all that if we in this country make institutions into sacred cows that cannot be questioned, then we are not a free country at all, but a cult. I took on the Catholic Church in the blog just before this one. And the topic here is really the slight of hand, the verbal dexterity, the "newspeak" that bamboozles citizens via propaganda. I wouldn't have it a child with religion. And I won't have it in my old age as a form of twisted patriotism now.

With all due respect what are you afraid of? Its poor form to comment on your own blog post.
I am not at all clear what your post is trying to say. I am incensed by the inequity in this country, and I have three members of my immediate family in the military. So your post should speak to me.
One the military- most are not heroes, just good people trying to do the right thing and can't find a decent job. Some are great, a few have greatness thrust on them. But a number are slackers and a few psychotic. They work awful hours and are paid squat but if they stay out of harms way they are the only ones left in this country who get pensions. Good on em.
Two On the megalomaniacs who run our financial system. Well these are people who have chosen to define their lives by monetary success. That breeds a culture of excess, how else can they keep track?. Even the good ones who meant no harm and just ended up in it because it was the only job that paid well and they are staring their insane student loans in the face (and there are many) become infected. They have to the culture pervades everything.
But some also see the power that they can create from the acclimation of capital. It gives you freedom to change the world. You can use it to invest in neat products like cars, radios, laptop, cell phones (my list is arbitrary because it is endless. Or you can use it to heal the world like the Gates foundation, or the Carnegie foundation, or well the list is endless. That is the justification, and its not a bad one.
Today their culture has swung way outta whack, and its time for the Guillotine to remind them that they are members of the community. Tomorrow, some should be rewarded again.

Interesting comments. Thanks for stopping by.
P.S. I reserve the right to comment on my own posts if I deem it necessary or important or simply for fun. You're welcome to do the same on yours. As is anyone. Self-reflection is part of our endowment as humans. And I enjoy using mine!
Peace be with you. And I like your avatar! :-)
Mea culpa?
I apologize that i went on a bit of stream of conscious rampage there. The constant dancing around the heros/Military bonus thing (cute italics/pauses/then a commenting) really rubbed me the wrong way (actually it flat out pissed me off). Not sure why I launched into the virulent explanation of capital acclimation. Never should have read Das Capital- been messing with me ever since.
However, I am pretty sure we probably align pretty close on politics. Either way, I will endeavor to elevate my discourse in the future.
Thanks for the note on the avatar, it makes me laugh whenever I look at my comments :)
Combat pay is a pretty ordinary thing, and honestly our military isn't paid so much in salaries that I feel they're overcompensated for the services they provide. Nobody joins up planning to get rich.
Bonuses inherent in bailouts are different. However, it is ordinary in the M&A context to pay retention bonuses to keep good employees in chaotic times. While I'm far from sure it is worth the effort at this point, given that these companies need to shed employees anyway, the principle isn't insane.
Annoys me too though.
TheraP, these people claim they EARNED it and my populist nature (I know Newt is calling himself a populist, that is pure corruption of a word) says that nobody earns an eight figure income, NOBODY.
But the further fiction is that the Board of Directors pays management based upon performance.
The boards are in fact paid off by management. Now the shareholders have no say in management salaries and the conservative Supreme Court has narrowed any chance of shareholders to sue management.
Now you bring two dozen cookies to work and make me the cookie man in charge. And no one can tell me how many cookies I can have. After awhile I will have come up with all these reasons how I deserve these cookies and earned these cookies.
The other thing that strikes me is the fact that everytime someone screwed up really bad in w's administration, he would resign and get a medal. You know a medal of freedom or some such.
Like you point out, here is a fireman who has had his hours cut to 32 with no chance of overtime and he gets to a blaze early and 19 lives are saved, it is not on cable news and no president is going to give him a medal. (I like that Dennis Leary fireman's show by the way)
Or a police officer tracks down a couple pounds of heroin and calls 911 and an ambulance saves the life of a 13 year old, and she is not put on cable news, and she goes about her biz unsung and unheralded except for the 13 year old's mom--hopefully.
Or the nurse who discovers the wrong 'stuff' was put in an iv and gets the matter remedied in short time, saving the ungrateful patient's life in room 31.
There are heroes out there. There is a good America out there.
If you think about it, it's some kind of pyramid scheme that's operating to the benefit of top management and boards of directors - who turn out to be top management from other pyramid schemes. Or maybe there's a better term for it. But some kind of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" way of benefiting people who are already skimming maybe 20% of the country's wealth. And they've devised these fraudulent investments - or so risky as to be considered fraudulent.
I really can't understand why these people are being rewarded and not prosecuted!
The people need to call (that would be all of us), write and otherwise communicate with those who have the power to modify the status quo.
It's amazing to me that we literally issued a blank check to these 'criminals'.
We have many unsung heroes, it only feels (at this time) we have more greedy, immoral and selfish jackasses.
Thanks. Rec'd.
I think you are really going to hate this answer, TheraP, but as far as I know they are not being prosecuted because they broke no laws.
No regulation, remember? No laws broken.
Puppy dog, the laws were on the books. Trust me on this. I may blog about that next week. But the laws were there.
If you knew or should have known that financial situations would be threatened by allowing bonuses to you and yours, you broke the law.
If you knew or should have known that the value of the company primarily owned by shareholders was in dire financial shape and did nothing about it, you broke the law because you were in a fiduciary relationship to those shareholders.
Believe, acouple of attorneys who went to real law school and were familiar with the laws concerning corporations and financial markets would have an easier time prosecuting the individuals responsible for crimes committed than they ever did on their bar exams.
Keep your eyes on Como in NYS.
If Cuomo draws mortal blood, he will succeed Obama in 2016.
Don't worry, seashell, I do not hate you. But, dang! I will still call a spade a spade - even if the regulators never would! :)

TheraP and DD - the puppy dog was referring to the role the bankers played in causing the crisis, such as the leveraging of financial instruments without adequate capital reserves, never mind not fully understanding what was being leveraged, even as they touted how risk free the scheme was.
The puppy dog is whole heartedly sorry and would like to ask for an indulgence from the nice woman that passes them out. He is glad you don't hate his guardian and in return, he would like to offer one, only slightly chewed, tennis ball out of his collection.
Someone just yelled at me for mixing up the King James and the King James.
If I knew what I was talking about, I would be doing something fruitful.
You are hereby granted one Plenary Indulgence each and every time you read a post of mine or simply see the grace note. You are also granted the right to bestow the same on any and all whom you choose as your recipients - for the rest of your life! :-)
As is the puppy dog, of course! :-)
We accept with humble gratitude and will dispense grace and tennis balls as we see fit.
Two comments Thera. Those signing bonuses are/were required to advance the neocon agenda. If a 'non-volunteer' force had been required, there would have been a lot more investigation PRIOR TO authorizing foreign intrigues.
Regarding, "The ones who engineered this worldwide financial mess." I think you're giving these bozos a bit more benefit of the doubt regarding their intelligence than they deserve. They just stepped into a different pile of s@#t, like they've been doing since they finished their MBAs.
Your analysis makes it clear, amigo. Repubs, either through avarice or stupidity have engineered things so everything could be done by slight of hand and then fall apart. It's kind of like crimes being hidden because earthquakes buried the evidence!
I may not be making any sense - but then neither do they!
Miguel, I like that assessment, that "They just stepped into a different pile of s@#t, ". I think you are right. I think they believed they already had their permanent Republican majority in the bag but they forgot two things: First, to leave the people employed so that they could avoid foreclosure, and second, to field a viable candidate.
Ya Gregor, but when I'm in the mood for a really good conspiracy theory, I like to imagine the collapse of the housing market as their engine to buy back 'real' estate at discount prices after having sold it at a premium.
Could not follow that. Are you talking about soldiers, politicians, bankers, what?? And who in particular fits your general notions?

You are really,really,really confused
Please educate us.
does anyone need more words then "they are thieves", to argue this point??
probably not! :-)
but it depends on the audience!
Actually, Jade, I think you've put your finger on another lie. They lie about thieving!
Good post TheraP. Somehow the words: "In god we trust" come to mind. You see, in America, we know what we worship. It says so right on our dollar bill.

Boy have you hit the nail on the head, Purple State!
The irony is delicious isn't it? I just love the fact that to prove to the godless communists that we had faith, our capitalist leaders decided to put the phrase "in god we trust" on our money! Dickens couldn't have written the story any better!

Or dd. I hope you're following dd's wonderful tales which mix Arthurian legends and modern times!
Peace and Solidarity for the struggle! :-)
No, I don't know dd. Tell me more . . .
We're on chapter XIX today, I believe. You can go back and read all the episodes. Lots of fun - when you've got spare time.
dd's been here a few months. Former lawyer, with some medical disabilities, who's read so many books full of Arthurian legends, he can write his own! Plus he's written great political blogs too.
Enjoy - when you've got tiime.
Thanks! I'll do that when I get some time.
Power corrupts.
Those in power corrupt those without power by luring them into military service with cash upon signing because without it few sane people, with any sense of self preservation would join in the current pointless, imperial wars we are fighting. The bonus in this case is a temptation they find too alluring to resist and so take a huge risk which, in the absence of the bribe, would not.
The endlessly greedy people atop the business pyramid, whose souls are empty and who consider greed a virtue believe they are entitled to all they can grab through whatever means they have at their disposal. They are the men and women who choose to worship mammon over the God they so hypocrically claim to believe in. They think nothing of Jesus' warning that they have received their reward.
The bonuses they reward themselves with are the fruits of their labors all of which are rooted in a system of exploitation without checks and balances. The logical and predictable outcome of a system that raises aloft the unrestricted worship of mammon over the welfare of humanity is corrupt to it's core and those who give themselves over to it entirely and then believe themselves to be entitled to wealth for themselves at the expense of all others are ultimately more dangerous to society than other criminals. Without strict regulation and a reordering of our society's priorities, their sociopathic behavior and it's insidious form of corruption rots away the very foundations of civilization and threatens the stability of the world.
Good post TheraP!
Fabulous comment as usual, oleeb! You so well analyze the problems, the corruption of others to feed the beast of war, the looting of the treasury and everybody else, the greed, the larceny, the use of usury to bankrupt the populace, the deceit.
I cannot put it better than you. And I applaud your prophetic zeal! Amen!
Posted by TheraP in reply to a comment from oleeb
February 14, 2009 11:37 AM | Reply | Permalink

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