The Morning Grumpy – November 22nd
by Chris Smith (@ChrisSmithAV) - posted 7:37 am, November 22, 2011
I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news, and analysis. Each morning I’ll share several links that you can consume during your “morning grumpy”.
1. It is tremendously sad that up to 700 people will now be out of work at Pillar Processing and Steven J. Baum PC.
In an abrupt turn of events, Steven J. Baum is shutting down his foreclosure law firm and laying off at least 90 full- and part-time employees in Amherst and Long Island just days after losing the bulk of his business when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stopped giving the firm new work.
The closing could also affect 600 employees at Amherst-based Pillar Processing, a neighboring firm that handles much of the paperwork from the Baum office.
The announcement caps a remarkable fall for the state’s dominant foreclosure law firm, which until recently handled 40 percent of all foreclosures statewide.
The firm last month agreed to pay a $2 million fine and change its practices to settle a federal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, and is also under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
But what may have hastened the firm’s demise were photos that recently emerged into the national spotlight from the firm’s Halloween party last year, at which Baum employees dressed up as foreclosure victims and attorneys, mocking and ridiculing them.
If any of the former employees find themselves in financial difficulty and perhaps in foreclosure proceedings, I hope they deal with a firm that extends them the ethical treatment, respect, and empathy the Baum firm failed to extend in recent years. We’re America, we need to be better than Steven J. Baum and his ilk.
The preferable treatment that investment income receives in the tax code is one of the factors driving the income inequality and galvanizing the Occupy Wall Street movement. Because the capital gains tax is capped at 15%, “anyone making more than $34,500 a year in wages and salary is taxed at a higher rate than a billionaire is taxed on untold millions in capital gains.
If you’re a member of the Forbes 400, capital gains make up nearly 60% of your income. All the while wages have remained flat for what used to be the middle class…
3. People who regularly get their news and information from Fox News are less informed than people who generally avoid news altogether. Yes, we now have proof, watching Fox News actually makes you dumber.
“Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News,” said Dan Cassino, a Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor who took part in the analysis of the PublicMind data. “Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions (about current events and news) than those who don’t watch any news at all.”
Yes, I know the poll is incredibly flawed and I posted it primarily to appeal to the condescending liberal elitist part of my audience. It isn’t a credible poll based on the limited number of questions asked and that it focused on people in New Jersey. While the poll is not especially credulous, some people are more prone towards in-group loyalty and confirmation bias. Jonathan Haidt’s work suggests that this tends to happen to people who identify more as conservative. So, draw your own conclusions.
4. First, they came for the salaries and benefits of teachers, cops, firemen and civil service employees. Up next? Soldiers. How a Pentagon advisory group stacked and staffed with Wall Street executives aims to slash the salaries and benefits of American soldiers.
These ideas may sound like a bold new approach in an urgent moment—but in fact, the push for pension cuts and other corporate “reforms” at the Pentagon originates from an obscure advisory panel that has existed for a decade: the Defense Business Board. Its 21 members know little about military affairs, but they are rich in Wall Street experience, including with some of the biggest companies implicated in the 2008 financial meltdown. They are investment bank CEOs and CFOs, outsourcing experts, and layoff specialists who promote a corporate agenda of “behavior change” and “business solutions” in the military bureaucracy. The board proposes not only to slash and privatize military pensions, but also to have the Pentagon invest in oil futures, boost pay for its executives and political appointees, and make it easier for them to fire rank-and-file employees while scaling back those workers’ collective-bargaining rights.
5. Where does New York’s 1% live? The Center for Working Families, a progressive think tank with ties to the Working Families Party breaks it down by State Senate District and State Assembly District using data from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. The report finds that 93% of millionaires live in and around New York City and uses the data to argue that upstate lawmakers should support the continuation and further progressive modification of New York’s “Millionaire’s Tax” as it will have limited effect on their constituencies. Fewer than 0.4% of taxpayers in SD-58 would be affected, 1.4% in SD-59, 0.8% in SD-60, and 2.0% in SD-61.
Quote of the day: “There are some who maintain that trade will regulate itself, and it is not to be benefited by the encouragements or restraints of government. Such persons will imagine that there is no need of a common directing power. This is one of those wild speculative paradoxes, which have grown into credit among us, contrary to the uniform practice and sense of the most enlightened nations.” – Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and First Secretary of the Treasury (The Continentalist, No. 5)
Song Of The Day: Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside, “Against The Law”
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