Friday, October 26, 2012

The War On Women 2012: How the Vicious Sexism, Misogyny, and Patriarchial Demogoguery of the Right in the United States is Destroying the Country


Question:  What is the actual structural, institutional, cultural, and ideological role of sexism, misogyny, and patriarchy (male supremacy) in politics, economics, and culture in the United Hates?

Answer:  It is exactly what it is with respect to all forms of racism, sexism, and homophobia--a very powerful systemic instrument for the comprehensive domination, control, oppression, and exploitation of women, people of color, and the LGBT community. 

Which is precisely WHY Romney and Ryan as well as many other vicious rightwing sexist and misogynist demagogues running for Congress in the Senate MUST be defeated in the 2012 national elections...


The War on Women and Its Consequences
by Hatty Lee
October 11 2012

After two years of relentless attacks on the infrastructure of family planning, poor and uninsured women are starting to see the impact in some states. In an article accompanying this infographic, Akiba Solomon reports from Texas, where women of color in both rural and urban areas have suddenly found themselves with starkly limited choices for reproductive health.

OCTOBER 25, 2012

Voter ID Laws Are Actually a Sneaky Way to Silence Women of Color

by Erin Gloria Ryan

Any connoisseur of 80's and 90's era kids' sports comedies knows that when the bad guys can't win, they cheat. Cobra Kai tried it, the Urbania Cowboys tried it, and everyone The Mighty Ducks ever played tried it. Now that an increasingly nonwhite population trend has threatened the electoral clout of white people, terrified conservatives have responded to the realization that democracy is not on their side by trying to pass voter ID laws to address the imaginary problem of in-person voter fraud. But, when you cut through all the high minded talk about the CONSTITUTION and the SANCTITY OF WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT, it's painfully obvious that what voter-ID enthusiasts really want is for women of color to shut up and let the white folk run things.

The Center for American Progress released a fascinating but depressing report yesterday that found that voter ID laws screw women of color over in two ways — by making it more difficult for them to vote, their voice in the electoral process is minimized, which means the elected officials who would actually represent their interests are losing to guys who think rape is just a penis-kiss from God. They're getting denied at the voting booth and the people who do get elected are a bunch of jagoffs who think women are literally made out of man-ribs and legislate accordingly. It's a double whammy of suck.

First, the report shows that women of color comprise the largest block of voters of color, and their civic engagement is increasing. Latina turnout increased 21% between 2004 and 2008, and during the last Presidential election, a larger percentage of black women than white women voted. Furthermore, behind most voter ID laws are really obvious, painfully oblivious racists who don't think anyone else notices that the laws they're trying to enact are specifically designed to discourage black people from voting. From the report,

An Ohio elections board member, for example, in discussing his vote against weekend voting hours, stated: "I guess I really actually feel we shouldn't contort the voting process to accommodate the urban - read African-American - voter-turnout machine."

Ohio has attempted to drastically limit both the periods for registering to vote and voting itself. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, the legislature passed a photo identification requirement, but because South Carolina has a history of racial discrimination and voter suppression based on race, a panel of judges in the District Court in Washington, D.C. was required to approve the law before it can go into effect. There was available evidence of racial animus, including an email discussion involving a South Carolina lawmaker. In the email exchange, the lawmaker affirmed a constituent's racially charged statement that if the legislature offered potential voters money to obtain identification cards, "it would be like a swarm of bees going after a watermelon," by replying with an "Amen." Despite that evidence, the court approved the law for 2013.

But it's not just Ohio and South Carolina that are attempting to keep women of color quiet; 34 states have introduced voter ID legislation, and 8 have passed them. Four will be in effect on election day. CAP estimates that between 596,000 and 959,000 women of color will lose their ability to vote on election day 2012.

But here's the thing: in-person voting fraud — which these laws are ostensibly designed to prevent — is much, much rarer than fatal shark attacks. In-person voter fraud only happens at a frequency 2.5 times greater than the frequency of Rush Limbaugh getting married and divorced. Since 2000, only 10 incidents of in-person voter impersonation have been reported. But legislating around this imaginary problem makes things much worse for women of color; according to the report, 25% of black voters and 16% of Latino voters lack photo ID, compared with a single-digit percentage of white voters. In states like Florida and Indiana, these restrictions that prevent US citizens from voting could swing elections.

And the elections will swing — SURPRISE! — to the right. And the right sure does like to attack women when they're out of ideas on how to fix the economy. The report details how the 61 new reproductive rights-restricting state laws passed this legislative session disproportionately affect women of color — from attempts to target South Asian women with so-called "prenatal nondiscrimination" bills to defunding Planned Parenthood in states where many women of color rely on the organization for reproductive and sexual health care. And all this loudly bellowed bluster from the Romney camp about how Obamacare will be repealed on "Day One" is a dramatically delivered middle finger flipped at uninsured women (53.2% of whom are nonwhite).

CAP's proposed solution to this bang-your-head-against-the-desk problem of old white men trying to cheat their way back into relevance is: KNOCK IT OFF (Seriously, the report reads, in its conclusion: "Stop disenfranchising voters and stop attacking women's reproductive rights."). But we know that the Dick Mourdocks and Todd Akins and Darrell Issas and Trent Franks and Paul Ryans and Mitt Romneys of the world won't stop doing what they're doing just because a liberal think tank told them to. Women, and men who give a shit about women, need to stay angry, stay awake, and remember that all those patriotic platitudes on cheap America tchotchkes are on your side. They's nothing less American than wanting fewer people to vote.

[Center for American Progress]

A woman stands at the registration window at Nuestra Clinica Del Valle in San Juan, Texas. About 85 percent of those served at the clinic are uninsured. Photo: AP Photo/Eric Gay

by Akiba Solomon
October 11 2012

On a patch of browning grass just 100 steps from the McAllen, Texas, headquarters of Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County stands an eye-level banner featuring an adorable white infant on either side.

Wide-eyed and pensive, baby number one grasps an adult’s fingers while gazing toward the familiar pro-life tagline, “Take my hand not my life…” Baby number two is sleeping, thumb in mouth and naked except for a jumbo red ribbon tied around its torso. “Life. The Greatest Gift of All!” the caption announces.

The placement of this PVC guilt trip is ironic. While the Planned Parenthood network is the largest provider of publicly funded family planning services along the Texas/Mexico border, none of its locations perform abortions.

To “get your period back,” as some locals describe it, you’ll have to cross the border for relatively cheap, maybe-safe, over-the-counter drugs that might trigger a miscarriage if you take it early enough in your pregnancy, at the right dosage and at the correct intervals. Or, if you have the cash, credit, or private insurance coverage, you can book an appointment across town or two cities away, at one of two private abortion providers in the entire Rio Grande Valley.

Race & Women’s Health

INFOGRAPHIC: War on Women and Its Consequences

Another bit of irony: Thanks to the anti-choice public health policies advanced by the state’s Republican leadership, Hidalgo County’s poor and uninsured women have fewer sources of the birth control and exams they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

“I would say that 85 to 90 percent of our clients live below the federal poverty line. They’re uninsured and many of them have two or three children and don’t want any more,” says Patricio Gonzalez, the network’s CEO. “Basic healthcare access is just very bad here so the women don’t get [regular] screenings for STIs or cancers, and when they do get them they often need more diagnostic services because they’ve delayed care. You’ll hear them say, ‘I don’t have $60 or $100 for this lab test, or this ultrasound or this mammogram.’ “

Up until last September, when massive state budget cuts took effect, Planned Parenthood had eight clinics throughout the county and served about 21,000 mostly poor and Latino clients a year. Now the network is down to four centers. Stripped of public funding, the rural sites were the first to go.

Two years into what NARAL Pro-Choice America has famously dubbed the War on Women, the wear is beginning to show in cities and towns around the country where poor, uninsured women live. In the right’s new abortion war strategy, taking apart the infrastructure for family planning services—providers like Planned Parenthood, Title X funding and, now, the Affordable Care Act—is as important as triggering a Supreme Court challenge that will overturn Roe v. Wade. In just one year, dozens of clinics throughout Texas have shut down or slashed their hours—limiting options for poor and working women in even big cities like Austin and Dallas, and closing the doors of clinics that have nothing to do with Planned Parenthood. The state offers a striking example of the collateral damage that’s inevitable when anti-choice Republicans use the legislative equivalent of drone strikes to attack abortion rights.

To show me what rural poverty looks like in Hidalgo County, Planned Parenthood promotora (outreach worker) Dora Alicia Proa takes me to a colonia nearly 15 miles away from McAllen, in San Carlos. Colonias are unincorporated subdivisions founded in the 1950s by predatory developers who sold lots of barren and flood-prone land to poor Latin American migrant workers without installing basic infrastructure. They are synonymous with poverty. Literally. The Texas Secretary of State defines these communities as “residential areas along the Texas-Mexico border that may lack some of the most basic living necessities, such as potable water and sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, and safe and sanitary housing.”

Last year, Hidalgo County’s Planned Parenthood offered free birth control, STI testing, Well Woman exams and men’s health screenings at the San Carlos Community Resource Center. Now, to get the same services, patients have to drive up to 20 miles to the Edinburg clinic, where a physical, HIV test and Pap smear costs at least $60 and a monthly supply of birth control pills costs $20 at minimum.

The Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department runs eight clinics where people of all ages can get a range of services, from tuberculosis treatment to newborn screenings. However, wait times are reportedly brutal, and the health department’s STI testing site is located in McAllen. Ostensibly to fill the void created by Planned Parenthood closures, the University of Texas Medical Branch opened a maternal health clinic in Hidalgo. But that site is also in McAllen; it specializes in pregnancy and prenatal care, and it doesn’t have weekend hours.

In one San Carlos household Proa and I visit—a cramped trailer on concrete blocks where the kitchen sink collides with bunk beds—Proa informs two young women that the Edinburg clinic is running a special on annual exams. They shake their heads at the mention of cash, then tsk tsk at six young boys and girls who are smiling shyly, pointing and calling me chocolate.

Next, Proa introduces me to a young woman standing in front of a three-room track house with dirt floors, a chunk of the roof missing and the toilet located in a crumbling shed next door. My Spanish is pitiful and neither Proa nor the homeowner speaks much English. But I can see that four small children and two adults share this space.

Within this context, it’s unclear how defunding conveniently located sources of free birth control, STI testing, Pap smears, clinical breast exams and other women’s health care is a pro-life activity. But this is what counts as logic in today’s abortion wars.

Two Years of Destruction

It’s hard to imagine a time when the Christian evangelical anti-abortion movement held such sway over the Republican party’s publicly stated agenda. Title X, a federal program that’s the leading source of family planning funds for low-income women, was established in 1970 under Richard Nixon and enjoyed wide bipartisan support despite chronic underfunding.

Since 2010, however, attacks on Title X have been relentless and overt. Between the tea party takeover of the House of Representatives and the steady stream of state-level anti-choice laws and ballot initiatives, radical anti-abortion Republicans have concentrated their power and they’ve been more than willing to wield it.

In Congress, an anti-choice dream team that includes Mike Pence of Indiana, vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Trent Franks of Arizona have turned their religiously based opposition to a legal medical procedure into a legislative priority. Among scores of anti-choice proposals, eight came to a full House vote in 2011, including Pence’s failed amendment that would have excluded Planned Parenthood from Title X funding.

During the marathon primary season, presidential hopefuls including a formerly pro-choice Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry tripped over themselves to condemn Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, contraception, abortion and unmarried vaginas. Romney even upped the ante and pledged to eliminate a major chunk of Title X funding altogether. This week his campaign reiterated his promise to be the “pro-life president,” after the notoriously hard-to-pin-down candidate told the Des Moines Register that he was unfamiliar with any “legislation with regards to abortion” that would become a part of his agenda. (In their endorsement statements, anti-choice juggernauts including Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life provide detailed lists of Romney’s agenda.)

The 2012 Republican Party Platform expands on the anti-abortion stance outlined in the 2008 version of the document. Now, it’s official GOP policy to defund health providers who “promote or perform abortion.” The platform also treats the scientifically unproven concept of first-trimester fetal pain as fact and praises congressional Republicans for banning Medicaid-funded abortions in Washington, D.C., a predominantly black city represented by a delegate without voting power.

In their attempt to stigmatize and outlaw abortion, some tea party-backed lawmakers have gone as far as to distort definitions of rape. In his amendment to the failed “No Taxpayer Support of Abortion” act, New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith changed the language of the so-called rape exception outlined in the Hyde Amendment to “forcible rape,” an outdated law enforcement term that excludes statutory rape and sexual violence against women who are intoxicated. This August, Missouri Republican senatorial candidate and sitting Congressman Todd Akin claimed that female bodies have the biological capacity to “shut down” conception during “legitimate rapes.”

Anti-choice activists and the lawmakers who represent them have also attempted to manipulate the legitimate concerns some people of color have about the history and modern limitations of publicly funded family planning. They have equated voluntary abortions with black genocide and compared the rights of fertilized eggs to those of enslaved Africans and freedmen denied citizenship via the 1857 Dred Scott decision. Arizona’s Franks coupled these race-baiting ideas with unsubstantiated claims of a growing trend in sex-selective abortion by Chinese immigrants. He floated two versions of an anti-choice bill called the Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act.

On the state level, Republican lawmakers enacted a record 69 anti-choice measures in 2011. For example, South Dakota’s GOP-dominated legislature mandated that women who have already decided to have an abortion must first visit an openly anti-choice crisis pregnancy center (CPC) for “counseling” beforehand. Arizona voided charitable status for any entity that performs or refers patients for abortions. Seven states—Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin—legally restricted the flow of family planning dollars to Planned Parenthood affiliates that already, by law, were not using the money to fund abortions.

All of this has made reproductive health a flash point in the 2012 elections. But a hardening reality is buried in the culture war surrounding Rush Limbaugh’s slurs and Todd Akin’s shocking claims: reproductive healthcare options are increasingly limited for people who are poor, uninsured, without a medical home and reliant on an ever-fraying healthcare safety net. These women—disproportionately Latinas and African American—are bearing the true brunt of the renewed attack on publicly funded family planning services. Nearly a third of all women who used those services in 2010 were Latina, and nearly 20 percent were black.

Lone Star Falling

Texas provides a striking example of the changes taking place at the local level.

The cash-strapped state has the highest percentage of uninsured people in the nation. This year it was ranked dead last in health care delivery by the nonpartisan federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In the most recent Texas Medical Association survey of private physicians in the state, only 30 percent said they would accept new Medicaid patients. (In 2000, 67 percent said they would.) Yet the Lone Star State has made a series of decisions that jeopardizes an entire network of family planning providers who do accept patients who need publicly funded care.

First, lawmakers slashed the state’s two-year family planning budget by 66 percent—from $111.5 million to $37.9 million. Then they created a three-tiered funding scheme for evaluating potential recipients of the federal family planning funds that the Texas Department of State Health Services administers.

Under this system, government agencies, universities, public hospitals and federally certified safety net clinics get the first crack at family planning service contracts. Comprehensive primary care providers are second in line. Last in line are nonprofits and community action organizations solely dedicated to family planning, including—you guessed it—Planned Parenthood.

Finally, lawmakers sabotaged the Texas’ Women’s Health Program (WHP), a widely heralded project that extended health care to a wider range of poor women.

Launched in 2005, WHP has allowed about 130,000 uninsured, low-income women ages 18 to 44 who weren’t able to meet Texas’s very narrow Medicaid eligibility requirements to receive no- or low-cost birth control and other preventative care each year. The program has been credited with saving the state about $183 million in Medicaid spending by averting nearly 17,000 unintended pregnancies. Planned Parenthood affiliates treated about 40 percent of women enrolled in WHP.

But last year—with the war on women in full tilt and Gov. Rick Perry in a presidential run—the GOP-dominated Texas legislature decided to enforce an existing rule that blocks providers that share a name, trademark or any other relationship with “an entity that performs or promotes elective abortions.” It was a blatant attempt to exclude Planned Parenthood from WHP.

The federal government, which supports the program via Medicaid, rejected the rule and threatened to withhold $35 million—90 percent of the WHP budget. Unlike Indiana anti-choicers who made a similar move last year, Texas stood its ground and lost the funding. Citing states rights, Perry vowed to “find the money” to maintain the program. The new Texas Women’s Health Program is set to debut on Nov. 1 and a lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed against the Texas health department is pending.

The WHP fiasco confirmed how far some anti-choice Republicans are willing to go to attack Planned Parenthood in 2012. Perry, a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, turned away $35 million of federal funds in a presidential election year. Deficit reduction, fiscal responsibility and limited government intrusion in personal matters are supposed to be the bedrock principles of the post-tea party GOP. And yet Perry willingly entered a power struggle with the Obama administration at the expense of more than 100,000 poor women in his state.

Ironically, Texas clinics that are in no way affiliated with Planned Parenthood are at greatest risk of closure, says Fran Hagerty, CEO of the Austin-based Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas.

“In the legislature’s effort to target Planned Parenthood and drive them out of Texas, everybody else has been caught in the net,” she says. “I have been telling [conservative legislators] for years that if they keep doing what they’re doing, we’re going to end up with no family planning providers except Planned Parenthood because they do such a bang-up job of getting national and local support. It’s the little guys in rural one-stoplight towns that no one has ever heard of—the community action organizations formed back in the 1950s under the Johnson administration—that are going under. The state is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

New data from UT Austin’s Texas Policy Evaluation Project confirm Hagerty’s thrown-baby theory.

The nonpartisan research team surveyed the 76 agencies that received public funding for family planning and reproductive health care in fiscal year 2010—before the most dramatic budget cuts kicked in. Of the 240 clinics run by survey respondents, a staggering 22 percent have closed their doors and 16 percent have cut their hours. Dedicated family planning groups fared the worst: more than one third closed their doors and nearly 40 percent reduced their hours.

Urban Upheaval

Armed with an ebullient voice, easy smile and bright almond-shaped eyes, Chenoa Elizabeth, 32, is an ideal volunteer for the North Texas Planned Parenthood clinic where she is also a patient. As she rattles off familiar talking points—how the Dallas-area center provides “amazing, compassionate, quality care” for low-income women like herself—I can’t help but think that she’s handling me the way she would a customer at the boutiques and cocktail lounges where she’s worked for most of her adult life.

Until she starts with the sobbing. In the stutter-step dialect of panic and humiliation, the Hurricane Katrina survivor of Trinidadian and Scottish descent tries to explain why she’s so attached to this particular clinic. She tells me that she was raped in her early 20s, that she terminated the resulting pregnancy and that she uses a Planned Parenthood-installed 12-year Paraguard IUD because she never, ever wants children. She also notes that she’s a severe asthmatic who didn’t see a non-emergency doctor from 2008 to 2011 because she didn’t have insurance. Elizabeth, who’s pursing her associates degree in peace and justice studies, did have private health benefits once. But then a global corporation acquired the music venue where she was working, transferred her to Dallas and cut her hours, rendering her ineligible for coverage. Today she has limited coverage under WHP, because administrators at this Planned Parenthood branch introduced her to the program and walked her through the enrollment process. But now that the clinic can’t take her WHP benefits, Elizabeth worries that she’ll lose access to an organization that gives her a sense of stability and safety. “I’ve always been able to take care of myself, and I’m trying so hard,” she tells me.

Rural towns like those in Hidalgo County aren’t the only losers in the defunding game. The cuts have wide ranging effects on providers that women like Elizabeth turn to in big cities as well.

Take Austin-based People’s Community Clinic, which has a patient population that is 78 percent Latino and 75 percent at or below the federal poverty line.

According to Celia Neavel, director of the clinic’s Center for Adolescent Health, the 42-year-old nonprofit received a half million dollars in federal funding prior to the budget cuts. As a Title X provider, the clinic could treat a wide range of teen patients without parental consent and they were able to buy contraceptives at a greatly reduced rate. In the funding carnage of 2011, the clinic lost all of these funds and the legal and purchasing protections of Title X.

“We’ve been scrambling to raise money so that we don’t turn patients away or bill them,” says Neaval, who admits to feeling frustrated and drained. In addition to reducing hours and forcing shutdowns, family planning budget cuts also drove up the cost of subsidized birth control and, in some cases, made confidential care for minors illegal. “There is some sadness as well, that now we can’t get a teen who has already had one pregnancy a long lasting, reversible form of birth control or the confidential care she needs.”

Patients are feeling the same anxieties. “When I think about losing my health insurance or what will happen if my IUD slips, or if I get sick,” says Elizabeth, “I just don’t know. I don’t know…what I’m going to do.”

Legislators who gutted the state’s family planning networks have an idea of what she should do: Seek select medical care from an overtly religious crisis pregnancy center (CPC) that specializes in talking pregnant women out of abortions.

Marketing itself as Houston’s first “life affirming pregnancy medical clinic,” The Source for Women Spring Branch held its big opening bash in mid-September. Like countless other CPCs around the country, The Source locations were founded for the express purpose of persuading “abortion-vulnerable” girls and women to continue unintended pregnancies using Bible study, “therapeutic counseling,” “reproductive health counseling,” and classes in marriage, parenting, adoption, cooking.

But now that Texas is rolling out Gov. Perry’s fully state-funded, anti-choice version of WHP, The Source has repositioned itself as a healthcare provider that offers traditional family planning services. Think of it as Planned Parenthood, plus Jesus.

In a late September email, The Source spokesperson Tiffany Pardue told me that the spanking new Spring branch, which aims to be a WHP provider by the program’s Nov. 1 relaunch, will offer its clients STI testing and treatment; breast, pelvic and anal exams; Pap smears; referrals for mammograms, and something the organization calls “a verbal review of your gynecologic system.”

Conspicuously absent from The Source’s current menu of expanded services? Birth control. It’s a confusing omission given the original intent of WHP—to reduce the number of Medicaid-funded births in Texas by preventing unintended pregnancies.

According to Pardue, the “life-affirming” nonprofit’s board hasn’t yet decided which contraceptives it will offer. “Our medical team is considering each medical service and prescription that we will provide to serve the women of Houston,” she wrote. “A full list will be made available upon determination.”

The Source’s lack of specificity about contraception didn’t deter Gov. Perry from participating in the Spring Branch ribbon cutting. In his official remarks he hailed it as a model WHP provider.

“The Source gives women with unexpected pregnancies the information and the support they need to make the right choice, the choice of life,” Perry said. “We’ve banned the use of your tax dollars for abortion procedures in Texas, and expanded that ban to include those affiliated with abortion providers in the case of our Women’s Health Program. … The Source for Women clinics, in fact, will be part of Texas’ own Women’s Health Program, and Planned Parenthood will not be.”

As Goes Texas…?

About three months after our first interview, Chenoa Elizabeth sends me a shocking email. In it, she details how she was sexually assaulted for a second time this past March. “This attack has been much more difficult for me to process,” she wrote. “There was a man who approached me in a coffee shop posing as a business owner and offered me a job. … I thought this was the financial breakthrough that I had been waiting for, but instead I waltzed right into a trap.”

To avoid the trauma—and the expense—of an ER exam, Elizabeth didn’t report the assault to police or seek emergency care. When we last spoke, she hadn’t been tested for STIs, either. “Yes, I could use WHP with a different provider,” she acknowledged. “But I don’t want to have to sacrifice receiving compassionate and specialized care because I’m low-income.”

Elizabeth’s experience speaks to one of the least acknowledged consequences of the war on women’s reproductive health care. All women—hell, all people—should be able to get the medical attention they need in an environment that makes them feel as safe as possible. By turning something as personal as gynecological care into a political battleground, Texas provides us with a blueprint for what doesn’t work.

In the run-up to the presidential election and the full implementation of Obamacare, anti-choice Republicans have taken umbrage at the “war on women” metaphor, but they have not changed course. Red state governments, along with religiously affiliated hospital networks and universities have filed court challenges to repeal health reform or gut its birth control coverage requirements. In these cases, state officials have used the rhetoric of religious freedom to deny women birth control and abortion coverage in the private insurance policies for which they pay premiums. Similarly about 15 states have signaled that they will reject Medicaid expansion, a core component of the plan. Fourteen have outlawed abortion coverage in their insurance exchanges. It’s likely that the next wave of anti-choice sabotage will be centered on insurance coverage.

Only time will tell if the new Texas Women’s Health Program will provide a seamless transition for the hundreds of thousands of women enrolled in it. The overall impact of family planning clinic closures on the health of poor Texas women is also a big question mark.

What’s clear is that politicizing health care is a dangerous, crazy-making game. Hopefully Texas will serve as an example of what not to do, instead of an inspiration for anti-choice crusaders who seem all too willing to sacrifice the reproductive health of poor women to say they have won.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Support Elizabeth Warren for the Senate in Massachusetts!

 Elizabeth Warren


Elizabeth Warren, current Democratic Party candidate for the Senate in Massachusetts is by far the most progressive, inspiring, dynamic, and trustworthy person running for the Senate in this year's elections in the entire country and she has a fantastic 30 year public record of ALWAYS fiercely fighting Wall Street, the banks, and the corporate plutocracy on behalf of poor, working, and middle class citizens.  She is a bona fide grassroots political heroine to many people throughout this country--including me!--who has never wavered in her heartfelt and intellectually challenging response to the ongoing conflict between Capital & Labor in this country and is the legendary founder and policy director of the national Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that officially became an important part of the federal government under President Obama in 2011.  Please check out and support Elizabeth's dynamic agenda and plans for the state of Massachusetts and give her your support. Her campaign website can be reached at:    PASS THE WORD...


GOP's Big Guns Trained, Elizabeth Warren Fights Back
The Huffington Post

Outside groups are spending big to defeat progressive Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. With little time left before Election Day, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and a Koch brother are taking advantage of a loophole in her anti-super PAC pledge with Republican Sen. Scott Brown to pour at least $1.6 million into the tight race so far.

Warren is hoping to turn that spending into an advantage. She said in an interview with The Huffington Post that the outside money helps clarify the race and that it's telling of how Brown, who has painted himself as an independent, would really vote if reelected.

"The Koch Brothers and Rove and Norquist are coming into this race because they want the Republicans to control the Senate and they know that Scott Brown and the Republicans will keep voting for Wall Street, for big oil and for billionaires," Warren told HuffPost. "These people are not supporting him because he's going to vote both sides on important issues. And they don't even pretend that that's the case. And he doesn't when he's outside of Massachusetts, and that's the real inside-outside."

Brown signed an agreement with Warren in January not to allow super PACs to bombard Massachusetts airwaves with negative television advertisements. The race was supposed to be a relatively civil affair, but cracks in that agreement started to appear in September, when Americans For Tax Reform, Norquist's group, sent out mailers, which were not covered under the pact.

Since then, Americans For Tax Reform has spent a total of $439,233 on the race. Crossroads GPS, a Karl Rove-run "dark money" 501(c)4 that does not disclose its donors, has spent $415,311. That total includes $182,709 used in just the last week on expenditures like robocalls against Warren. For tax reasons, and to keep its donors secret, Rove's group swears most of its money isn't spent on campaign politics.

And then there is the America 360 Committee, a previously unknown group that has spent all of its $442,816 in reported independent expenditures against Warren or in support of Brown. Its reported donations so far have come almost exclusively from William Koch, the lesser known brother of David and Charles, who usually operates independently of them. It too has spent money on anti-Warren mailers.

"I didn't expect Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers all to show up in this race, especially after we'd signed the pledge, but they know what's at stake and they're willing to go anywhere and put their money to work," Warren said.

And all that money, she argued, is not going to waste.

"Here in Massachusetts, Scott Brown says he's an independent, a Republican, and he has no say over independent groups. These people would not support him if they didn't know he would vote with them. It's that simple," Warren said.

The Brown campaign did not return a request for comment.

The latest poll in the race has Warren leading Brown by five percentage points.

Pro-Warren groups like unions and the League of Conservation Voters are spending money on direct mail, door-hangers and field organizing, which are also not covered under the so-called "People's Pledge." There are also signs that outside groups on both sides may be biding their time until the last days before the election to launch a final barrage of TV ads -- something the candidates have no power to stop beyond their promise to independently donate half the cost of those ads to charity whenever an outside group buys advertising in the race.

But even without that money, Warren and Brown have had no trouble getting personal on their own. Brown claimed that legal assistance Warren gave to an insurance company in a case regarding asbestos victims let the company off the hook -- something the victims' lawyers themselves disputed. He made his troubles worse when he falsely accused Warren of using actors in her ads featuring those same victims.

"It's really just offensive," Warren said. And she called the news that Brown himself took money from the political action committee of the company, Travelers Insurance, then returned it just before his attack ads began, "the kicker."

Elizabeth Warren says she “came up the hard way … out of a hard-working middle class family in an America that created opportunities for kids like me.” She has made her life’s work fighting for middle class families.

The Boston Globe calls her “… the plainspoken voice of people getting crushed by so many predatory lenders and under regulated banks.” TIME magazine has called her a “New Sheriff of Wall Street” and has twice included her among America’s 100 most influential people. She’s taken on big banks and financial institutions to win historic new financial protections for middle class families.

Elizabeth learned first-hand about the economic pressures facing middle class families. When she was twelve, her dad suffered a heart attack. The store where he worked changed his job and cut his pay, and the medical bills piled up. The family lost their car, and her mom went to work answering phones at Sears to pay the mortgage.

Elizabeth got her first job at nine, babysitting for a family across the street from her house. She started waiting tables at 13 at her Aunt Alice’s Mexican restaurant. All three of her brothers served in the military. She got married at 19, and after graduating from college, started teaching in elementary school. Her first baby, a daughter Amelia, was born when Elizabeth was 22.

When Amelia was two, Elizabeth started law school. Shortly after she graduated, her son Alex was born. She practiced law out of her living room, but she soon returned to teaching.

Elizabeth has been a law professor at Harvard for nearly 20 years and has written nine books, including two national best-sellers, and more than a hundred articles. National Law Journal named her one of the Most Influential Lawyers of the Decade, and she has been honored by the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association with the Lelia J. Robinson Award.

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Elizabeth served as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Her independent and tireless efforts to protect taxpayers, to hold Wall Street accountable, and to ensure tough oversight of both the Bush and Obama Administrations won praise from both sides of the aisle. The Boston Globe named Elizabeth Bostonian of the Year in 2009 for her oversight efforts.

She is widely credited for the original thinking, political courage, and relentless persistence that led to the creation of a new consumer financial protection agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She led the establishment of the agency, building the structure and organization to hold accountable even trillion-dollar financial institutions and to protect consumers from financial tricks and traps often hidden in mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.

Elizabeth and her husband Bruce Mann, who was born and grew up in the Boston area, have been married for 32 years and now have three grandchildren. They live in Cambridge with their golden retriever, Otis.

Monday, October 22, 2012

George McGovern. 1922-2012: Inspirational Progressive Leader in American Politics

 George McGovern in 1972
 George McGovern  1922-2012


George McGovern was a great man and a genuine progressive leader who had it all:  intelligence, COURAGE, vision, moral and ethical clarity, INTEGRITY, toughness, sincerity, honesty, dignity, and COMPASSION.  Which is fundamentally why he lost in such a tragically spectacular manner to one of the most ruthless, immoral, and truly criminal assholes ever to win the Presidency, Richard Nixon.  In a bitterly ironic sense however losing to such a despicable cretin like Nixon the way he did is much more a major indictment of, and dire comment on, the massive stupidity, idiocy, ignorance, paranoia, and craven hatred/self hatred of white America than it ever was of McGovern himself who always-- even in defeat-- maintained a profound grace and an independent spiritual quality and mature sense of self that never failed to inspire throughout his incredible six decade political career.  He was the first presidential candidate I ever personally voted for in a national election in 1972 and his landslide loss in that election signified and personified for me as it did for so many others the end of a truly radical era in American politics and culture that began in the mid 1950s and carried through the revolutionary '60s period and well into the early '70s.  But I never, ever forgot George and what he did and tried to do.  The man was actually in every essential way a real 'democratic socialist' in the very best sense of that term  both  intellectually and emotionally, if not directly in terms of his own mainstream political career as a highly principled and outspoken  liberal Senator in the Democratic Party, and I will always remember him and his independent, "maverick" personality and politics in the most inspiring and positive terms possible. RIP Mr. McGovern.  If only there were MANY MORE like you today as the political system that you challenged has become more venal and corrupt than ever...


A Prairie Liberal, Trounced but Never Silenced 
October 21, 2012
New York Times

George McGovern, the United States senator who won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972 as an opponent of the war in Vietnam and a champion of liberal causes, and who was then trounced by President Richard M. Nixon in the general election, died early Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D. He was 90.

His death was announced in a statement by his family. He had been moved to hospice care in recent days after being treated for several health problems in the last year. He had a home in Mitchell, S.D., where he had spent his formative years.

In a statement, President Obama called Mr. McGovern “a champion for peace” who was a “statesman of great conscience and conviction.”

To the liberal Democratic faithful, Mr. McGovern remained a standard-bearer well into his old age, writing and lecturing even as his name was routinely invoked by conservatives as synonymous with what they considered the failures of liberal politics.

He never retreated from those ideals, however, insisting on a strong, “progressive” federal government to protect the vulnerable and expand economic opportunity, while asserting that history would prove him correct in his opposing not only what he called “the tragically mistaken American war in Vietnam” but also the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A slender, soft-spoken minister’s son newly elected to Congress — his father was a Republican — Mr. McGovern went to Washington as a 34-year-old former college history teacher and decorated bomber pilot in World War II. He thought of himself as a son of the prairie as well, with a fittingly flat, somewhat nasal voice and a brand of politics traceable to the Midwestern progressivism of the late 19th century.

Elected to the Senate in 1962, Mr. McGovern left no special mark in his three terms, but he voted consistently in favor of civil rights and antipoverty bills, was instrumental in developing and expanding food stamp and nutrition programs, and helped lead opposition to the Vietnam War in the Senate.

The war was the cause he took into the 1972 election, one of the most lopsided in American history. Mr. McGovern carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia and won just 17 electoral votes to Nixon’s 520.

The campaign was the backdrop to the burglary at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington and to the Nixon organization’s shady fund-raising practices and sabotage operations, later known as “dirty tricks,” which were not disclosed until after the election.

The Republicans portrayed Mr. McGovern as a cowardly left-winger, a threat to the military and the free-market economy and someone outside the mainstream of American thought. Whether those charges were fair or not, Mr. McGovern never lived down the image of a liberal loser, and many Democrats long accused him of leading the party astray.

Mr. McGovern resented that characterization mightily. “I always thought of myself as a good old South Dakota boy who grew up here on the prairie,” he said in an interview for this obituary in 2005 in his home in Mitchell. “My dad was a Methodist minister. I went off to war. I have been married to the same woman forever. I’m what a normal, healthy, ideal American should be like.

“But we probably didn’t work enough on cultivating that image,” he added, referring to his presidential campaign organization. “We were more interested in ending the war in Vietnam and getting people out of poverty and being fair to women and minorities and saving the environment.

“It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.”

The 1972 Nomination

Mr. McGovern was 49 years old and in his second Senate term when he won the 1972 Democratic nomination, outdistancing a dozen or so other aspirants, including Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, the early front-runner; former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, the nominee in 1968; and Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, a populist with a segregationist past who was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt in Maryland during the primaries.

Mr. McGovern benefited from new party rules that he had been largely responsible for writing, and from a corps of devoted young volunteers, including Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham, who took time off from Yale Law School to work on the campaign in Texas.

The nominating convention in Miami was a disastrous start to the general election campaign. There were divisive platform battles over Vietnam, abortion, welfare and court-ordered busing to end racial discrimination. The eventual platform was probably the most liberal one ever adopted by a major party in the United States. It advocated an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, amnesty for war resisters, the abolition of the draft, a guaranteed job for all Americans and a guaranteed family income well above the poverty line.

Several prominent Democrats declined Mr. McGovern’s offer to be his running mate before he chose Senator Thomas F. Eagleton of Missouri.

Mr. McGovern’s organization was so disorganized that by the time he went to the convention rostrum for his acceptance speech, it was nearly 3 a.m. He delivered perhaps the best speech of his life. “We reject the view of those who say, ‘America, love it or leave it,’ ” he declared. “We reply, ‘Let us change it so we can love it more.’ ”

The delegates loved it, but most television viewers had long since gone to bed.

The convention was barely over when word got out that Mr. Eagleton had been hospitalized three times in the 1960s for what was called nervous exhaustion, and that he had undergone electroshock therapy.

Mr. McGovern said he was behind his running mate “a thousand percent.” But less than two weeks after the nomination, Mr. Eagleton was dropped from the ticket and replaced by R. Sargent Shriver, a Kennedy in-law and former director of the Peace Corps.

The campaign never recovered from the Eagleton debacle. Republicans taunted Mr. McGovern for backing everything a thousand percent. Commentators said his treatment of Mr. Eagleton had shown a lack of spine.

In the 2005 Times interview, Mr. McGovern said he had handled the matter badly. “I didn’t know a damn thing about mental illness,” he said, “and neither did anyone around me.”

With a well-oiled campaign operation and a big financial advantage, Nixon began far ahead and kept increasing his lead. When Mr. McGovern proposed deep cuts in military programs and a $1,000 grant to every American, Nixon jeered, calling the ideas liberalism run amok. Nixon, meanwhile, cited accomplishments like the Paris peace talks on Vietnam, an arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union, a prosperous economy and a diplomatic opening to China.

On election night, Mr. McGovern did not bother to call Nixon. He simply sent a telegram offering congratulations. Then, he said, he sat on his bed at the Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls and wrote his concession speech on hotel stationery.

In his book on the campaign, “The Making of the President 1972,” Theodore H. White wrote that the changes Mr. McGovern had sought abroad and at home had “frightened too many Americans.”

“Richard M. Nixon,” Mr. White wrote, “convinced the Americans, by more than 3 to 2, that he could use power better than George McGovern.”

Mr. McGovern offered his own assessment of the campaign. “I don’t think the American people had a clear picture of either Nixon or me,” he said in the 2005 interview. “I think they thought that Nixon was a strong, decisive, tough-minded guy, and that I was an idealist and antiwar guy who might not attach enough significance to the security of the country.

“The truth is, I was the guy with the war record, and my opposition to Vietnam was because I was interested in the nation’s well-being.”

His staff, he said, urged him to talk more about his war experience, but like many World War II veterans at the time, he was reluctant to do so.

How long, he was asked, did it take to get over the disappointment of losing? “You never fully get over it,” he replied. “But I’ve had a good life. I’ve enjoyed myself 90 percent of the time.”

Humble Beginnings

George Stanley McGovern was born on July 19, 1922, in a parsonage in Avon, S.D., a town of about 600 people where his father, Joseph, was the pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. A disciplinarian, his father, who was born in 1868, tried to keep his four children from going to the movies and playing sports. His mother, the former Frances McLean, was a homemaker about 20 years her husband’s junior.

The family moved to Mitchell, in southeastern South Dakota, when George was 6. He went to high school and college there, enrolling at Dakota Wesleyan University in 1940. After Pearl Harbor, Mr. McGovern joined the Army Air Corps. In 1943 he married Eleanor Stegeberg, who had grown up with an identical twin on a South Dakota farm. They had met at Dakota Wesleyan.

Mr. McGovern was trained to fly the B-24 Liberator, a four-engine heavy bomber, and he flew dozens of missions over Austria, Germany and Italy.

On his 30th mission, his plane was struck by enemy fire. Lieutenant McGovern crash-landed the plane on an island in the Adriatic. He earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for the exploit.

After his discharge, Mr. McGovern returned to Mitchell — his father had recently died — and resumed his studies at Dakota Wesleyan. He graduated in 1946 and went to Northwestern University for graduate studies in history.

With a master’s degree, he returned to Dakota Wesleyan, a small university, to teach history and political science. “I was the best historian in a one-historian department,” he said in an interview in 2003. During summers and in his free time, he continued his graduate work and received a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern in 1953.

Mr. McGovern left teaching to become executive secretary of the South Dakota Democratic Party, and almost single-handedly revived a moribund operation in a heavily Republican state.

Month after month, he drove across South Dakota in a beat-up sedan, making friends and setting up county organizations. In 1956, gaining the support of farmers who had become New Deal Democrats during the Depression, he was elected to Congress himself, defeating an overconfident incumbent Republican. He became the first Democratic congressman from his state in more than 20 years.

Mr. McGovern left the House after two terms to run for the Senate and was soundly beaten by the sitting Republican, Karl E. Mundt. He then became a special assistant to the newly elected president, John F. Kennedy, and the director of Kennedy’s Food for Peace program, an effort to provide food for the hungry in poor countries.

In 1962, Mr. McGovern ran for the Senate again, and this time he won, by 597 votes. He defeated Joseph H. Bottum, a Republican serving out the term of Senator Francis H. Case, who had died in office.

In the Senate, Mr. McGovern became a reliable vote for Democratic initiatives and a leader on food and hunger issues as a member of the Agriculture Committee. But he was more interested in national politics than in legislation.

After Robert F. Kennedy, fresh from his victory in the California presidential primary, was assassinated in Los Angeles in June 1968, the Kennedy camp encouraged Mr. McGovern to enter the race as an alternative to Humphrey and Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota. Mr. McGovern did so but was unable to catch up to Humphrey.

Almost from the moment the 1968 campaign ended, Mr. McGovern began running for the 1972 nomination. He traveled the country, recording on index cards the names of potential supporters he met. He also became the chairman of a Democratic Party commission on delegate selection, created after the fractious 1968 national convention to give the rank and file more say in picking a presidential nominee.

What became known as the McGovern commission rewrote party rules to ensure that more women, young people and members of minorities were included in delegations. The influence of party leaders was curtailed. More states began choosing delegates on the basis of primary elections. And the party’s center of gravity shifted decidedly leftward.

Though the rules were not written specifically to help Mr. McGovern win the nomination, they had that effect.

After he was crushed by Nixon in the 1972 election, Mr. McGovern returned to the Senate and began campaigning for re-election in 1974. At the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner in 1973, he told the assembled Washington elite, “Ever since I was a young man, I wanted to run for the presidency in the worst possible way — and I did.”

Mr. McGovern was re-elected to the Senate in 1974, a landslide year for Democrats after Watergate. He defeated Leo K. Thorsness, a novice politician.

It proved to be Mr. McGovern’s last success in elective politics. As the conservative movement gained force, Mr. McGovern’s popularity dropped.

In 1980, he was defeated by James Abdnor, a plain-spoken Republican congressman who had clung to Ronald Reagan’s coattails and was helped by anti-McGovern advertisements broadcast by the National Conservative Political Action Committee.

Mr. McGovern ran for the Democratic presidential nomination again in 1984, but withdrew after winning only 23 convention delegates, most of them in Massachusetts.

Unlike some of his peers, Mr. McGovern did not become wealthy in office, and he said he had no interest in lobbying afterward. Instead, he earned a living teaching, lecturing and writing. He briefly owned a motor inn in Stratford, Conn., and a bookstore in Montana, where he owned a summer home. But neither investment proved profitable.

What he called “the big tragedy of my life” occurred in 1994. His daughter Teresa J. McGovern, who had suffered from alcoholism and mental illness, froze to death, acutely intoxicated, in a parking lot snowbank in Madison, Wis., at the age of 45.

His eyes welled up as he talked about it 11 years later. “That just about killed me,” he said. “I had always had a very demanding schedule. I didn’t do everything I could as a father.”

As therapy, Mr. McGovern researched and wrote a book, “Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle With Alcoholism,” published in 1997. (An addiction-treatment center named after her was established in Madison.)

That year, President Bill Clinton appointed Mr. McGovern ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. He moved to Rome, and he worked on plans for delivering food to malnourished people around the world. In 2000, Mr. Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Returning Home

After four years in Rome, Mr. McGovern and his wife moved back to Mitchell, where they lived in a ranch-style house owned by Dakota Wesleyan and helped raise money for a university library that was named after them. The university is also home to the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service, a research and educational institution founded in 2006. The McGoverns also had a home in St. Augustine, Fla.

Eleanor McGovern died in 2007 at 85. A son, Steven, who had also struggled with alcoholism, died in July at 60.

Mr. McGovern’s survivors include three daughters, Ann, Susan and Mary; 10 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Mr. McGovern remained robust in old age. To celebrate his 88th birthday, he sky-dived in Florida. Last fall, he was hospitalized twice, once after falling and hitting his head outside the Dakota Wesleyan library before a scheduled C-Span interview, and another time for fatigue after completing a lecture tour. But he rebounded and resumed making public appearances this year.

Mr. McGovern remained a voice in public affairs, notably in 2008, when, in an op-ed article in The Washington Post, he called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their prosecution of the war in Iraq.

He published books regularly, on history, the environment and other subjects. In “Out of Iraq” (2006), written with William R. Polk, he argued for a phased withdrawal from Iraq, to end in 2007. In his final book, “What It Means to Be a Democrat,” released last November, he despairs of an “insidious” political atmosphere in Washington while trying to rally Democrats against “extremism” in the Republican ranks.

“We are the party that believes we can’t let the strong kick aside the weak,” Mr. McGovern wrote. “Our party believes that poor children should be as well educated as those from wealthy families. We believe that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes and that everyone should have access to health care.”

With the country burdened economically, he added, there has “never been a more critical time in our nation’s history” to rely on those principles.

“We are at a crossroads,” he wrote, “over how the federal government in Washington and state legislatures and city councils across the land allocate their financial resources. Which fork we take will say a lot about Americans and our values.”

David E. Rosenbaum, a Washington correspondent for The New York Times, died in 2006. William McDonald contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 21, 2012

An earlier version of this obituary contained these errors: Mr. McGovern was 49, not 50, when he won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1972. His wife’s maiden name was Stegeberg, not Stageberg. The navigator when Mr. McGovern crash-landed his bomber did not die on that flight; he was killed on another mission, when Mr. McGovern was not flying the plane.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chrystia Freeland On The New American Plutocracy And Its Lethal Nefarious Assault On Our Democracy And Our Humanity


The following highly revealing and deeply disturbing article by Chrystia Freeland, former U.S. editor of the Financial Times, current global editor-at-large for Reuters, and author of an excellent and very important new book on the global capitalist crisis entitled Plutocrats: The New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (Penguin Press,  2012) tells us a great deal about the real stakes in the upcoming national election and offers genuine analytical and anecdotal insight into the present very dangerous political, economic, and ideological direction of the actual U.S. ruling class elites vis-a-vis both "national" and global political economies  today.  Please read carefully and pass the word..


Matt Taibbi and Chrystia Freeland on the One Percent's Power and Privileges
Published on Oct 19, 2012 by MoyersandCompany:
The One Percent is not only increasing their share of wealth — they're using it to spread millions among political candidates who serve their interests. Example: Goldman Sachs, which gave more money than any other major American corporation to Barack Obama in 2008, is switching alliances this year; their employees have given $900,000 both to Mitt Romney's campaign and to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Why? Because, says the Wall Street Journal, the Goldman Sachs gang felt betrayed by President Obama's modest attempts at financial reform.

To discuss how the super-rich have willfully confused their self-interest with America's interest, Bill is joined by Rolling Stone magazine's Matt Taibbi, who regularly shines his spotlight on scandals involving big business and government, and journalist Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.
"We have this community of rich people who genuinely believe that they are the wealth creators and they should get every advantage and break," Taibbi tells Bill. "Whereas everybody else is a parasite and they're living off of them"

Freeland adds, "How dare they have the gall to actually argue that too much regulation of American financial services is what is killing the economy?"



Why do billionaires feel victimized by Obama?

OCTOBER 8, 2012
The New Yorker
Leon Cooperman’s aggrieved open letter to the President quickly went viral.

One night last May, some twenty financiers and politicians met for dinner in the Tuscany private dining room at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. The eight-course meal included blinis with caviar; a fennel, grapefruit, and pomegranate salad; cocoa-encrusted beef tenderloin; and blue-cheese panna cotta. The richest man in the room was Leon Cooperman, a Bronx-born, sixty-nine-year-old billionaire. Cooperman is the founder of a hedge fund called Omega Advisors, but he has gained notice beyond Wall Street over the past year for his outspoken criticism of President Obama. Cooperman formalized his critique in a letter to the President late last year which was widely circulated in the business community; in an interview and in a speech, he has gone so far as to draw a parallel between Obama’s election and the rise of the Third Reich.

The dinner was the highlight of the fourth annual SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, known as salt, a convention orchestrated by the fund manager Anthony Scaramucci; it brings together fund managers with brand-name speakers and journalists for four days of talking and partying. The star guest at the dinner was Al Gore, who was flanked by Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, and the New York hedge-fund investor Orin Kramer, a friend of Gore’s and a top Obama fund-raiser.

Discussion that night was wide-ranging. The group talked about Apple, on whose board Gore sits, and Google, where Gore is a senior adviser, as well as climate change and energy policy. The most electric moment of the evening, though, was an exchange between Cooperman and Gore. Heavyset, with a lumbering gait, Cooperman does not look like a hedge-fund plutocrat: Scaramucci affectionately describes him as “the worst-dressed billionaire on planet earth.” Cooperman’s business model isn’t flashy, either. He began his finance career as an analyst of consumer companies at Goldman Sachs, and went on to make his fortune at Omega as a traditional stock-picker. He searches for companies that are cheap and which he hopes to sell when they become dear. (In 1998, Cooperman made a foray into emerging markets, investing more than a hundred million dollars as part of a bid to take over Azerbaijan’s state oil company, but it went badly wrong. His firm lost most of its money and paid five hundred thousand dollars to settle a U.S.-government bribery investigation.) Cooperman had come to the dinner to give Gore a copy of the letter he’d written to President Obama. “I’d like you to read this,” he told the former Vice-President. “You owe me a small favor. I voted for you,” he said, referring to Gore’s Presidential run, in 2000.

In the letter, Cooperman argued that Obama has needlessly antagonized the rich by making comments that are hostile to economic success. The prose, rife with compound metaphors and righteous indignation, is a good reflection of Cooperman’s table talk. “The divisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them,” Cooperman wrote. “It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents.”

At the dinner, Al Gore was diplomatic when presented with the letter, and asked Cooperman if he would accept higher taxes. Cooperman said that he would—if he was treated with respect, and the government didn’t squander his money. Cooperman asked Gore what he thought the top marginal tax rate should be. Gore’s reply was noncommittal, but he pleased the group by suggesting that no matter who wins in November the victor should surround himself with advisers with experience in the private sector.

Kramer, the hedge-fund manager and Obama fund-raiser, was quiet, but others in the room were enthusiastic. Villaraigosa gave Cooperman his direct phone number. Barry Sternlicht, the founder of the W hotel chain, and an Obama donor in 2008, said that he agreed totally with Cooperman. Scaramucci, the organizer of the dinner, told me the next day that the guests had witnessed the “activation” of a “sleeper cell” of hedge-fund managers against Obama. “That’s what you see happening in the hedge-fund community, because they now have the power, because of Citizens United, to aggregate capital into political-action committees and to influence the debate,” he said. “The President has a philosophy of disdain toward wealth creation. That’s just obvious, O.K.? We talked about it all night.” He later said, “If there’s a pope of this movement, it’s Lee Cooperman.”

The growing antagonism of the super-wealthy toward Obama can seem mystifying, since Obama has served the rich quite well. His Administration supported the seven-hundred-billion-dollar tarp rescue package for Wall Street, and resisted calls from the Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, and others on the left, to nationalize the big banks in exchange for that largesse. At the end of September, the S. & P. 500, the benchmark U.S. stock index, had rebounded to just 6.9 per cent below its all-time pre-crisis high, on October 9, 2007. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have found that ninety-three per cent of the gains during the 2009-10 recovery went to the top one per cent of earners. Those seated around the table at dinner with Al Gore had done even better: the top 0.01 per cent captured thirty-seven per cent of the total recovery pie, with a rebound in their incomes of more than twenty per cent, which amounted to an additional $4.2 million each.

Notwithstanding Occupy Wall Street’s focus on the “one per cent,” or Obama’s choice of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars as the level at which taxes on family income should rise, the salient dividing line between rich and not rich is much higher up the income-distribution scale. Hostility toward the President is particularly strident among the ultra-rich.

This is the group that has benefitted most from the winner-take-all economy: the 0.1 per cent, whose share of the national income was 7.8 per cent in 2009, according to I.R.S. data. Moreover, even as the shifting tides of the global economy have rewarded the richest while squeezing the middle class, the U.S. tax system has favored the very top, as the tax returns of the Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, have illustrated. In 2011, Romney paid an effective tax rate of just 14.1 per cent, and his income of $13.7 million places him in the 0.01-per-cent group.

When Obama first ran for President, four years ago, Wall Street formed an important and lucrative part of his base: he raised about sixteen million dollars from the financial sector, compared with McCain, who raised about nine million. Employees of Goldman Sachs contributed more to Obama’s campaign than workers at any other firm, on Wall Street or beyond. Like many others in the financial-services industry, Leon Cooperman was impressed when he first saw Obama in action, at a Goldman Sachs event at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, in May, 2007. Goldman had assembled a group of hedge-fund managers to meet the junior senator from Illinois who had the temerity to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Cooperman said he was impressed by Obama’s reply to a question about what he would do to taxes on the rich if he were elected. “ ‘Raise ’em.’ Just like that. ‘Raise ’em,’ ” Cooperman recalled Obama saying.

Although he voted for McCain in 2008, Cooperman was not compelled to enter the political debate until June, 2011, when he saw the President appear on TV during the debt-ceiling battle. Obama urged America’s “millionaires and billionaires” to pay their fair share, pointing out that they were doing well at a time when both the American middle class and the American federal treasury were under pressure. “If you are a wealthy C.E.O. or hedge-fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They are lower than they have been since the nineteen-fifties,” the President said. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”

Cooperman regarded the comments as a declaration of class warfare, and began to criticize Obama publicly. In September, at a CNBC conference in New York, he compared Hitler’s rise to power with Obama’s ascent to the Presidency, citing disaffected majorities in both countries who elected inexperienced leaders. A month before, Cooperman had written a mock, nine-point “Presidential platform,” outlining his political convictions, which he distributed to his investors. In it, he called for a freeze on entitlements, a jump in the retirement age to seventy for everyone except “those that work at hard labor,” and a temporary tax increase for the super-rich to help pay down the debt. He also called for significant spending cuts, so that the growth in government spending could be restricted to one per cent less than the increase in G.D.P. In November, he drafted the letter to the President. It was fifteen hundred words and took him two weeks to write. “I’m not a gifted writer,” Cooperman recalled. “I spent a lot of time using a dictionary and a thesaurus. I wanted to sound intelligent.” He got help from a friend, a former Omega employee. He also showed the letter to his wife, Toby.

The letter begins by acknowledging that Obama inherited an “economic mess,” but what Cooperman seems to object to most is not the President’s policies but the “highly politicized idiom” in which the debate surrounding them was being conducted:

"You should endeavor to rise above the partisan fray and raise the level of discourse to one that is both more civil and more conciliatory.... Capitalism is not the source of our problems, as an economy or as a society, and capitalists are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be. As a group we employ many millions of taxpaying people, pay their salaries, provide them with healthcare coverage, start new companies, found new industries, create new products, fill store shelves at Christmas, and keep the wheels of commerce and progress (and indeed of government, by generating the income whose taxation funds it) moving. To frame the debate as one of rich-and-entitled versus poor-and-dispossessed is to both miss the point and further inflame an already incendiary environment."
Evident throughout the letter is a sense of victimization prevalent among so many of America’s wealthiest people. In an extreme version of this, the rich feel that they have become the new, vilified underclass. T. J. Rodgers, a libertarian and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has taken to comparing Barack Obama’s treatment of the rich to the oppression of ethnic minorities—an approach, he says, that the President, as an African-American, should be particularly sensitive to. Clifford S. Asness, the founding partner of the hedge fund AQR Capital Management, wrote an open letter to the President in 2009, after Obama blamed “a small group of speculators” for Chrysler’s bankruptcy. Asness suggested that “hedge funds really need a community organizer,” and accused the White House of “bullying” the financial sector. Dan Loeb, a hedge-fund manager who supported Obama in 2008, has compared his Wall Street peers who still support the President to “battered wives.” “He really loves us and when he beats us, he doesn’t mean it; he just gets a little angry,” Loeb wrote in an e-mail in December, 2010, to a group of Wall Street financiers.

The purported activation of the fund-manager “sleeper cell” is more than the self-aggrandizement of the super-rich. It is having a material and intellectual impact on the 2012 campaign. Historically, incumbent Presidents have enjoyed a strong fund-raising advantage. Going into this year’s race, President Obama had the further benefit of his record-breaking haul in 2008. Yet the Republican National Committee and Romney, a mechanical campaigner whose ability to inspire passion in the Republican base was widely questioned during the primaries, hold a huge cash advantage over Obama. The biggest shift has been among wealthy businesspeople, particularly in financial services. Romney’s advantage is compounded by the advent of Super pacs in this Presidential campaign, which are not subject to the same contribution limits as parties or candidates. The Republican-aligned Restore Our Future, for instance, has raised ninety-six million dollars this election season, and many of its top donors, who give a million dollars or more, work in finance.

The President, in Cooperman’s view, draws political support from those who are dependent on government. Last October, in a question-and-answer session at a Thomson Reuters event, Cooperman said, “Our problem, frankly, is as long as the President remains anti-wealth, anti-business, anti-energy, anti-private-aviation, he will never get the business community behind him. The problem and the complication is the forty or fifty per cent of the country on the dole that support him.”

Framing the political debate as job creators on one side and the President and the fifty per cent of Americans who are supported by the state on the other was striking at the time. It has become even more so since Mitt Romney was secretly recorded at a closed-door fund-raiser in Florida, in May, saying that forty-seven per cent of Americans don’t pay income taxes, are “dependent on the government,” and will vote for President Obama “no matter what.”

Romney’s comment has been widely criticized as a mistake that could cost him the election, with even Republicans accusing their candidate of incompetence. Cooperman’s statement six months earlier shows that Romney’s forty-seven-per-cent remark wasn’t an undisciplined slip by a gaffe-prone politician but, instead, the assertion of a view that is widely held by people of Romney’s class.

America’s super-rich feel aggrieved in part because they believe themselves to be fundamentally different from a leisured, hereditary gentry. In his letter, Cooperman detailed a Horatio Alger biography that has made him an avatar for the new super-rich. “While I have been richly rewarded by a life of hard work (and a great deal of luck), I was not to-the-manor-born,” he wrote, going on to describe his humble beginnings in the South Bronx, as the son of working-class parents—his father was a plumber—who had emigrated from Poland. Cooperman makes it known that he gets up at 5:20 a.m. and is at his desk at Omega’s offices in lower Manhattan, on the thirty-first floor of a building overlooking the East River and Brooklyn, by 6:40 a.m. He rarely gets home before 9 p.m., and most evenings he has a business dinner after leaving the office. “I say that I date my wife on the weekends,” he told me one August afternoon at his office. The space is defiantly modest, furnished with nineteen-nineties-era glass coffee tables, unfashionable yellow couches, and family photographs.

Cooperman’s pride in his work ethic is one source of his disdain for Obama. “When he ran for President, he’d never worked a day in his life. Never held a job,” he said. Obama had, of course, worked—as a business researcher, a community organizer, a law professor, and an attorney at a law firm, not to mention an Illinois state legislator and a U.S. senator, before being elected President. But Cooperman was unimpressed. “He went into government service right out of Harvard,” he said. “He never made payroll. He’s never built anything.”

Cooperman differs from many of his fellow super-rich in one important regard. He understands that he isn’t just smart and hardworking but that he has also been lucky. “I joined the right firm in the right industry,” he said. “I started an investment partnership at the right time.” In the fall of 1963, he enrolled in dental school at the University of Pennsylvania, but within the first week he began to have doubts, and he dropped out soon afterward. “My father, may he rest in peace, was going to work saying, ‘My son, the dentist,’ ” Cooperman said. “It was a total embarrassment amongst his friends.”

Cooperman went on to make a series of fortunate choices. Chief among those was entering the financial markets, after graduating in 1967 from Columbia Business School. In the sixties, Wall Street wasn’t yet the obvious destination for the smart and ambitious, but it was on the verge of becoming the most lucrative industry in America. Cooperman became an analyst at Goldman Sachs, at the time a scrappy partnership that had nearly failed during the Great Depression. In 1976, Cooperman was named a partner. He went on to found Goldman’s asset-management business, but, after twenty-five years at the firm, he decided to start his own hedge fund. Between 1991, when Cooperman founded Omega, and the 2008 financial crisis was the best time in history to make a fortune in finance. Cooperman’s partners who stayed behind at Goldman Sachs are hardly paupers—and those who stuck around for the 1999 I.P.O. are probably multimillionaires—but the real windfalls on Wall Street have been made by the financiers who founded their own investment firms in the period that Cooperman did.

Toby Cooperman grew up five miles away from her husband, in the west Bronx. She asked Cooperman out after they met in French class at Hunter College. Toby has two graduate degrees, in education and as a reading specialist, and works three days a week at a special-needs school in Chatham, New Jersey.

“Growing up lower-middle-class Jewish in the Bronx, I never knew a Republican,” Toby Cooperman recalled. “Everybody loved Roosevelt.” She is still a liberal, a position that puts her in the minority in their social circle. “She can be a socialist because she’s married to a capitalist,” Cooperman says of his wife, who is strongly pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. She calls Todd Akin, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry “morons,” and she worries about the underclass. “I care more about the disadvantaged people of America,” she said, comparing her politics with those of her husband. “I have friends who are very dependent on Medicare.”

Even so, Toby, who voted for Obama in 2008, defers to her husband when it comes to taxation, and she admires his letter to Obama. “He used a lot of good words,” she said.

The New York Post published an abridged version of the letter, and Cooperman e-mailed it to some of his friends and colleagues. It quickly went viral. Within a couple of weeks, Cooperman was being courted by everyone from CNBC and Fox to Al Jazeera. “I would say, unequivocally, I never got as much response in anything I’ve ever done, in business or outside of business, that I got in that letter,” Cooperman said.

Cooperman keeps a bulging manila folder of congratulatory notes in his office at Omega. He received “hundreds and hundreds of e-mails.” According to Cooperman, only one was nasty: “If I knew where you lived, I’d put a bomb in your car.” The folder includes a letter from a former chief of Goldman Sachs and another from a current boss of one of the nation’s top five banks. There are succinct letters of support from fellow Wall Street titans, typed on thick, embossed paper, and signed with a flourish, and long, angry screeds, which warn, as a ninety-two-year-old lawyer from Fort Worth, Texas, put it, that “Barack Obama is a Communist pure and simple, with a determined plan to convert America into a Communistic nation.”

Like his wife, Cooperman doesn’t approve of the right’s blurring of the line between church and state, or its stance on gay marriage and abortion. Romney, he told me, has got to “appease the conservative wing of his party. But I don’t think he’s nuts like all those guys are.” Like other plutocrats, Cooperman presents his complaint not as a selfish defense of his pocketbook but as a concern about the degradation of the American dream. Jamie Dimon, the C.E.O. of JP Morgan Chase, who was widely criticized this spring for the firm’s highly risky trade that has led to at least six billion dollars in losses, has echoed Cooperman’s view of the Obama Administration. Speaking on “Meet the Press” in May, Dimon said that he didn’t mind paying higher taxes and wanted “a more equitable society.” But the “anti-business behavior, the sentiment, the attacks on work ethic and successful people” by some Democrats had alienated Dimon so much that he said he would now call himself “a barely Democrat.”

“It’s a question of tone,” Cooperman said. “The President makes it sound like the problems of the ninety-nine per cent are caused by the one per cent, and that’s not the case.” Yet some of the harshest language of this election cycle has come from the super-rich. Comparing Hitler and Obama, as Cooperman did last year at the CNBC conference, is something of a meme. In 2010, the private-equity billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, of the Blackstone Group, compared the President’s as yet unsuccessful effort to eliminate some of the preferential tax treatment his sector receives to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. After Cooperman made his Hitler comment, he has said, his wife called him a “schmuck.” But he couldn’t resist repeating the analogy when we spoke in May of this year. “You know, the largest and greatest country in the free world put a forty-seven-year-old guy that never worked a day in his life and made him in charge of the free world,” Cooperman said. “Not totally different from taking Adolf Hitler in Germany and making him in charge of Germany because people were economically dissatisfied. Now, Obama’s not Hitler. I don’t even mean to say anything like that. But it is a question that the dissatisfaction of the populace was so great that they were willing to take a chance on an untested individual.”

It’s easy to see how even a resolutely unflashy billionaire like Cooperman can acquire a sense of entitlement. In a single hour at his desk one morning in April, the C.E.O.s of two well-known public companies were on the phone to Cooperman lobbying for his support. (He is a major investor in their firms.) Companies courting his investment dollars pick up Cooperman at Teterboro Airport in their private jets to give him a tour of their projects. The Coopermans have chosen an emphatically low-key life style, but when they went to visit a grandchild in Vermont one summer weekend they flew in a private plane.

Last July, before he had written the letter, Cooperman was invited to the White House for a reception to honor wealthy philanthropists who had signed Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, promising to donate at least fifty per cent of their net worth to charity. At the event, Cooperman handed the President two copies of “Inspired: My Life (So Far) in Poems,” a self-published book written by Courtney Cooperman, his fourteen-year-old granddaughter. Cooperman was surprised that the President didn’t send him a thank-you note or that Malia and Sasha Obama, for whom the books were intended as a gift and to whom Courtney wrote a separate letter, didn’t write to Courtney. (After Cooperman grumbled to a few friends, including Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, Michelle Obama did write. Booker, who was also a recipient of Courtney’s book, promptly wrote her “a very nice note,” Cooperman said.)

When Cooperman told me the story of his lucky escape from dental school, he concluded, “I probably make more than a thousand dentists, summed up.” (A thousand dentists would need to work for a decade—and pay no taxes or living expenses—to collectively earn Cooperman’s net worth.) During another conversation, Cooperman mentioned that over the weekend an acquaintance had come by to get some friendly advice on managing his personal finances. He was a seventy-two-year-old world-renowned cardiologist; his wife was one of the country’s experts in women’s medicine. Together, they had a net worth of around ten million dollars. “It was shocking how tight he was going to be in retirement,” Cooperman said. “He needed four hundred thousand dollars a year to live on. He had a home in Florida, a home in New Jersey. He had certain habits he wanted to continue to pursue.

“I’m just saying that it’s not an impressive amount of capital for two people that were leading physicians for their entire work life,” Cooperman went on. “You know, I lost more today than they spent a lifetime accumulating.”

One billionaire who is not part of Cooperman’s “sleeper cell” is Warren Buffett. In 1982, Buffett sent Cooperman a note, praising one of the research reports he had written at Goldman Sachs. It hangs on Cooperman’s office wall. Cooperman clearly cherishes the opportunities that the Giving Pledge has given him to spend time with Buffett. He also admires Buffett’s life style, which is similar to his own. But Buffett’s embrace of the rule that bears his name—President Obama’s proposal that no millionaire should pay less than thirty per cent of his income in taxes—sets him apart from his peers.

Cooperman pointed out that Buffett had adroitly minimized his personal taxes for many years until his late-life star turn as the President’s favorite billionaire. “I’m more charitable to him than most, because I have enormously high regard for him,” Cooperman said. “There are a lot of people who think he’s become extraordinarily hypocritical. . . . If he thinks it’s so wrong, people say, ‘Well, why doesn’t he just give his money to the government?’”

Many billionaires have come to view charity as privatized taxation, paid at a level they determine, and to organizations they choose. “All things being equal, you’d rather have control of the money than the government,” Cooperman said. “Even if you’re giving it away, you’d rather give it away the way you want to give it away rather than the way the government gives it away.” Cooperman and his wife focus their giving on Jewish issues, education, and their local community in New Jersey, and he is also setting up a foundation that will allow his children and grandchildren to support their own chosen causes after he dies.

Foster Friess, a retired mutual-fund investor from Wyoming who was the backer of the main Super pac supporting the Republican primary candidate Rick Santorum, expounded on this view in a video interview in February. “People don’t realize how wealthy people self-tax,” he said. “If you have a certain cause, an art museum or a symphony, and you want to support it, it would be nice if you had the choice.” The middle class anonymously and nervously pays its thirty-five per cent to the I.R.S., while the super-rich pay fourteen per cent, and are then praised for giving five or ten per cent more to pet causes, often with the perk of having their names engraved above the door.

Cooperman repeatedly emphasizes his willingness in principle to pay higher taxes, though he sees nothing wrong with paying at the lowest possible rate the law allows. Although Toby still lives in New Jersey, Cooperman told me that he has moved for most of the year to Florida, “because I had arthritis, and I just needed the warmer weather.” He added, “Not to say there’s no benefit of a zero state income tax versus ten.”

Nick Hanauer is a Seattle entrepreneur and venture capitalist who was one of the first investors in Amazon. In a book published this year, he argues that since the Reagan era American capitalists have enjoyed a uniquely supportive set of ideological, political, and economic conditions. Their personal enrichment came to be seen as a precondition for the enrichment of everyone else. Lower taxes for them were a social good, rather than a selfish perk.

“If you are a job creator, your fifteen-per-cent tax rate is righteous. If you aren’t, it is a con job,” Hanauer told me. “The idea that the rich deserve to be rich is a very comforting idea if you are rich.” Referring to Obama’s “You didn’t build that” remark, at a rally in Virginia in July, which became a flashpoint with the right, Hanauer said that “the notion that you built it yourself is what you need to believe to feel comfortable with yourself and your desire not to pay too much in taxes.”

I asked Cooperman whether Romney should disclose his tax returns. Beyond 2011 and 2010, he has not released any others. “Only a fool pays taxes that you don’t have to pay,” Cooperman said. “So what am I going to learn? He made a lot of money and he paid less taxes than the average person, but he did it from legal means. Does that make me think less of him? It’ll make me think more of him.” Cooperman observed that the smart reaction to Romney’s low effective tax rate would be to ask him for the name of his tax lawyer.

Cooperman prides himself both on not being partisan and on his streetwise Bronx kid’s suspicion of politicians in general. But he’s genuinely enthusiastic about Romney. He approves of Romney’s commitment to his family and he admires Romney’s private-sector experience. “He’s an accomplished businessman,” Cooperman said. “The fact that he’s wealthy and successful I think is good, not bad.”

Cooperman told me that he thought this was the most important election of his lifetime. In June, he made his biggest ever political contribution, when he wrote a fifty-thousand-dollar check supporting Mitt Romney’s Presidential bid after Romney’s brother, Scott, visited the Omega offices. Now Cooperman is planning another political volley. With his Omega partner Steven Einhorn and fellow-billionaire Ken Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, he has drafted a second open letter, which he hopes will be co-signed by a large group of self-made billionaires, and published as a newspaper advertisement in some swing states. Cooperman estimates that it will cost around a million dollars, a sum he says the group will split. “It’s going to be, you know, ‘We are the one per cent that came from the ninety-nine per cent, and we want to see more of the ninety-nine per cent move in our direction, but we fear the President’s policies discourage that from happening,’ ” Cooperman said.

At the salt conference in Las Vegas, there was no shortage of wealthy financiers who shared Cooperman’s view. At a “Titans of Wall Street” panel, Barry Sternlicht, the W hotel-chain founder, appeared with Dan Loeb, the hedge-fund manager who compared Wall Street supporters of Obama to “battered wives,” and who has given three hundred and fifty thousand dollars to Republican Super pacs and thousands more to Republican candidates this campaign cycle. Their session was off the record, but attendees said that the two investors inveighed passionately against the President’s “anti-business” attitude. Another panelist suggested that Sternlicht and Loeb form a pro-business ticket and make a run for the White House. The audience cheered.

On the final day, Cooperman delivered a presentation on his top stock picks. A few hours later, the conference concluded in the Bellagio’s grand ballroom, with the most billionaire-friendly speaker of all: Sarah Palin. She strode onto the stage and opened her talk with a rousing greeting, “Hello, one per cent! How y’all doing!”

Editorial Reviews of Plutocrats:The New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland:

“Rising inequality is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Chrystia Freeland's Plutocrats provides us with a glimpse of the lives of America's elites and a disquieting look at the society that produces them. This well-written and lively account is a good primer for anyone who wants to understand one extreme of America today."
    --Joseph Stiglitz, author of The Price of Inequality; University Professor, Columbia University

"Mix crisp economics, ripe history, and two pinches of salty gossip, and you have the flavor of Chrystia Freeland’s entertaining book. From the opulent Bradley Martin ball of 1897 to its modern echoes in Sun Valley and Davos, Plutocrats chronicles the habits of the workaholic overclass—its taste for British public schools, its immodest philanthropy, its fundamental rootlessness. Even as she describes this gilded tribe, Freeland advances a paradoxical warning. Open societies may allow super-achievers to pile up extraordinary riches—and to feel that they have more or less deserved them. But the more these meritocrats succeed, the more likely they are to entrench their own offspring at the top of the heap, negating the very meritocracy that afforded them their chances. Already in the United States, graduating from college is more closely linked to having wealthy parents than to grades in high school. When class matters more than going to class, Freeland’s message must be treated with the utmost seriousness."
    --Sebastian Mallaby, author of More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite

"Our world increasingly revolves around global elites who not only have an oversized effect on our politics but also set the trends and furnish us with the dominant discourse. In this delightful book, Chrystia Freeland tells the story of how we got here and what distinguishes our elites from those of previous epochs. Most importantly, she explains why the elites' dominance, even when it appears benign, is a challenge to our institutions and gives us clues about how we can overcome it."
    --Daron Acemoglu, co-author of Why Nations Fail; economics professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“The world’s wealthy elite are more wealthy, more knit together, more separate from their fellow citizens and probably more powerful than ever before. This very important  book describes their lives and more important how their lives affect all of ours. It should be read by anyone concerned with how their world is being shaped and how it will evolve.”
    --Lawrence Summers, Former U.S. Treasury Secretary; Charles W. Eliot , University Professor, Harvard University

"Chrystia Freeland has written a fascinating account of perhaps the most important economic and political development of our era: the rise of a new plutocracy. She explains that today’s wealthy are different from their predecessors: more skilled and more global; and more often employees than owners, notably so in finance and high technology. By putting together stories of individuals with reading of the scholarly evidence, she gives us a clear view of what many will view as a not so brave new world."
    --Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator for the Financial Times