Bankers Take Welfare, Let America Rot

Whether the bankers who so crippled the American economy end up being punished for their irresponsibility or not, the harm they caused is worsening, not improving, and we are setting ourselves up for a real collapse the next time around. Perhaps the key battle won by those of the super-rich who survived 2008 was the decision by Washington to “save the system” by saving the bankers at the expense of throwing away the victimized homeowners, leaving unanswered the question, “Why would bankers holding millions of mortgages want all that property in foreclosure and rotting away?”

[Details on Class War Page]

It will be up to the courts (if democracy wins) or historians (if the banks win) to judge whether the officials in charge of the largest financial institutions in the U.S. have, over the last decade, been criminals or just idiots. The fact is they accepted millions of dollars of mortgages so risky that it trashed the whole financial system. The job of bankers is, at its core, to assess risk, and they failed to do their jobs. Then Washington rewarded the…criminals? idiots?…well, let’s be polite and just call them the “perps”…while turning its back on the victims.

One of the most egregious examples is the corporate socialist scheme of loaning Government funds at below market rates to the banks while denying such loans to homeowners facing foreclosure. (Remember the obvious: saving those homeowners meant saving the homes…which were owned by the banks! Helping corporations may not help any actual human except the CEO; helping people helps everyone…and every corporation.) Apparently, Jamie Dimon and his very small circle of good buddies at Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, etc. [for the list of culprits, see The Warmonger Report] felt that they could not compete on equal terms (i.e., paying equal rates for loans) with the average American homeowner. No socialism for individuals! No Sir! That would be un-American. If a man can’t pay his mortgage, then he deserves to sleep in the gutter. But a banker earning $25M a year, well, now, anyone can see, that’s a different thing altogether. You don’t expect Jamie Dimon to play on a level playing field with the likes of you, do ya? Huh, do yah?

The evidence of this closely guarded secret policy of corporate socialism has been emerging slowly:

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates….

Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year. [Bloomberg 11/28/11]

How the banks managed this cute trick is no mystery any more. As Senator Bernie Sanders of Vt. noted:

At a time when small businesses could not get affordable loans to create jobs, the Fed was providing trillions in secret loans to some of the largest banks and corporations in America that were well represented on the boards of the Federal Reserve Banks. [As quoted by Abby Ziment, “Naming Names: Jamie Dimon Is Not Alone,” in Common Dreams 6/15/12].

As Zimet points out, “the bankers bailed out themselves.” 
In the event, 3.6 M homes were foreclosed [RealtyTrac via Bloomberg], and the banks that happened, after all the corporate welfare, to survive are using a good chunk of those welfare payments to “persuade” Washington to continue looking the other way. Many of those homes are at this moment sitting rotting in my own town – with the banks refusing to take care of them yet insisting on trying to sell them for far more than they are now worth, as they steadily fall apart.

Legislating Morality

Who says you can’t legislate morality? We not only do it but cannot, in our complex system, do anything else. The question is: what kind of morality do we legislate?

Government colors every facet of economic life. The frontiersman in us may scream, “Leave me alone,” but government cannot avoid picking winners and losers. Society speaks through government. The alternative is rule of the jungle – individuals alone. When individuals try to work collectively, maybe they can occasionally rally for a boycott or riot, but mostly they speak through that collective organization we call “government.” Government does something or not and either way sends a clear signal. Individuals then make choices in response. Every day we legislate to set options, which impact behavior, and which eventually tends to alter attitudes: utterly arbitrary and perhaps completely irrational, unjust, unfair, biased norms are created and eventually taken for granted as we forget their arbitrary beginnings.

Consider one of the most basic economic decisions that the U.S. government has made: a special very low capital gains tax. If you bake bread or catch criminals or teach our kids or smelt steel or manage a hospital, you pay a tax rate that is some rather substantial percent of your earned income. But if you get your money without earning it, i.e., just by sitting around and watching the value of your property or stocks or the value of your bets derived from whatever other thing you are betting on rise, then you are awarded a privileged and very low tax rate (made even lower by anti-worker Bush), which of course is called the capital gains rate on unearned income. It is called unearned because it is: you don’t do anything but watch your investment’s value change as the result of some independent process that luckily for you happens to be occurring. It is called “capital” gains because your gains are a function of capital–i.e., money–movements rather than physical or mental movements, which would be called “work.”

Graph from Wikipedia.

One could call the government attitude back in the 1970s, when the capital gains tax rate was at 35%, “neutral”–the government more or less avoided punishing or rewarding either of the two alternative means of gaining income (working for it or gambling for it). By (infamously) the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the elitist, anti-worker regime of Bush and Cheney had warped the government’s attitude into a clear pro-gambling stance, heavily penalizing those still clueless enough (including this author) to be working for a living. Although the moral superiority of labor over capital had been recognized in U.S. politics at least as far back as Abraham Lincoln, who–though no economist–had a very clear sense of justice and pointed out that labor should be held in higher regard than capital since labor had to come first (with capital as the result of someone’s hard work), in Washington, a pro-capital, anti-labor bias has long plagued U.S. society.

Thus, the government has made a fundamental value judgement: working to build up the nation (whatever physical or mental, blue-collar or white-collar work you care to do) is punished; gambling with money (most often not even your own money!) is rewarded. Any normally rational person (i.e., a person who chooses to maximize his own personal profit rather than sacrifice personally for the greater good of society) will thus conclude that he should become a financial manipulator. Worse, since the government rewards gambling with other people’s money just as much as gambling with one’s own, why would any rational person choose to risk his own money, when he can get the same reward for putting his neighbor at risk instead. So naturally, people flock to large-scale gambling with other people’s money. And amazingly, even after the 2008 Recession clarified the idiocy of designing a society for the purpose of maximizing financial manipulations rather than investment in real work or actually doing real work, nothing has changed. Citizens who choose to work for a living are still punished and those who gamble with other people’s money are still rewarded.

CBO via Mother Jones

All this has absolutely nothing to do with the size of government. It has to do with the choices that government makes. Financially, the U.S. today probably has the most extreme government of any major country on earth: i.e., the government that legally enforces the most pro-gambling, anti-work rules of any major government. Note that I did not say “the most pro-business.” This bias in favor of financial manipulations has nothing to do with being pro-business. The business of making steal is punished just as much as the work of being a steelmaker is punished. The business of building hospitals is punished just as much as the work of being a surgeon is punished. Only businesses such as  J.P.Morgan and Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, i.e., businesses that make their money primarily from gambling with other people’s money by making idiotic bets that X will change in value (the direction matters not a whit as long as you guess correctly), are rewarded. All businesses and individuals who actually do something, create something, build something are punished.

So there is no surprise that manufacturing is declining and infrastructure is decaying and schools don’t teach as much as they used to. Who wants to repair bridges when the government penalizes you by confiscating an extra 15 – 25 cents out of every dollar you earn, in comparison with its treatment of financial manipulators?

There is no surprise that the JP Morgans are the richest and just about the largest companies in the land, that they are gaining the power to rule, and that politicians will take your tax dollars to provide them as much welfare as they may need. It is no surprise that their employees’ salaries are the highest or that their CEO’s are the richest. Well, to be correct, there is a class of business that is even richer – pure, 100% hedge funds, and that too is only logical, for they do nothing but gamble. After all, JP Morgan and Bank of America still do offer bank accounts to individuals, a distraction that may gain them further government benefits but still amounts to a distraction from their real line of business, so the real rich are not the Jamie Dimons at $25M or so per year but the several hedge fund managers at the top who each pocket a cool billion or so per year. When your annual income is $1B, that 15% tax rate makes a difference!

The decline of everything except finance is neither illogical nor “chance” nor surprising. Our system works as designed–for the benefit of financial manipulators.

Liberty, Slavery, and Class War

Liberty is both reciprocal and relative, not individual or absolute. Otherwise, it just means “my liberty, and your slavery.”

Slavery is the power to compel. In the long and bumbling struggle of Americans for liberty, the physical bondage called slavery has been more clearly condemned than the more subtle but equally effective financial bondage of a rich elite, in part because the dial of financial bondage is far more sensitive (in modern parlance, “trickle down”), in part because the dial of financial bondage has been spun with far more skill, and in part because financial slavery is not easy to define, whereas physical slavery is. In the event, physical bondage was prohibited after a war that nearly destroyed the nation, while the level of financial bondage waxes and wanes with the alertness of the citizenry.

In the 21st century, carefully distracted and manipulated by culture wars, bribed by cheap Chinese consumer junk, scared by the marvelously useful specter of terror, and beguiled by a breathtakingly bold stream of elitist propaganda nonsense, American citizens are not very alert at all. Hence, the super-rich elite has been steadily spinning the dial on the financial slavery machine in the direction of transferring the marvelous wealth of American society into their own hands. It is no longer necessary to debate the idiocy of trickle down, for trickle down has been transformed into squeeze dry.

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for Liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable [sic] things, called by the same name–liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable [sic] names–liberty and tyranny.” [Abraham Lincoln, Speech to the Sanitary Commission, April 1864, as quoted in Ronald C. White, Jr., “Lincoln and the Rhetoric of Freedom,” in Harold Holzer and Sara Vaugn Gabbard, eds., Lincoln and Freedom (Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois UP, 2007, 139.)]

What in the language of abolition does not equally apply to the struggle against financial slavery?

When American families use the word “liberty,” they are not referring to granting monster banks the liberty to engage in mortgage fraud or bet against their own clients or demand welfare to compensate them for their gambling losses. When billionaires use the word “liberty,” they are referring to all this and more…to the right to buy elections by pitting their billions against the savings of normal voters in a “free” contest of “one dollar, one vote.” The billionaires are referring to the right to tell the politicians they have bought to pass laws for their private convenience, laws that break unions, drive down wages, and push virtually everyone into subservience. The billionaires are referring to laws that allow them to destroy the environment that is our common heritage in order to enrich themselves even as they impoverish the rest of us.

When the average American uses the word “liberty,” that word means “government  of the people, by the people, and for the people.” When billionaires and their lackey politicians use the word “liberty,” it means something incompatible: it means  “class war.” And the billionaires are winning.

U.S. Economic System: Vote Progressive or Vote Elitist

Our government is indeed, as alleged, bad; all Americans, elitist or progressive, can agree on that, and it is bad because we keep electing officials who follow the money. If we the voters do not punish them for favoring the rich, why wouldn’t they?

If you wonder what is wrong with Washington, filled as it is with an insidious gang of outright paid agents of the billionaires and spineless “moderates”who want to fit in, here is what an honest spokesperson for democracy sounds like:

Since the great financial crisis of 2008, big bank CEOs and their lobbyists have led the charge to block efforts to regulate Wall Street. Their message has been clear: leave it to us — the big Wall Street banks — to regulate ourselves because we’re the only ones who understand how the world really works….Even after Dodd-Frank became law, the fight wasn’t over. Open public debate turned into guerrilla warfare over rules to put the law to work. For two years now, Wall Street bankers and their lobbyists have pushed regulators to water down those rules and have pushed for loopholes for their lawyers to wiggle through….in 2011 alone, the financial industry spent more than $161 million on lobbying efforts….
reckless gambling by the big banks can affect the jobs, the pensions and the tax bills of every American — and that means that those company’s actions should be subject to careful oversight.That’s what government does: it passes laws to keep markets honest, and it puts a smart cop on the beat to enforce those laws. It is hard, but it isn’t brain surgery. And it starts only if we have a Congress that has the guts to stand up to the big banks and their armies of lobbyists. [Boston Globe 5/15/12.]

Every voter with an ounce of patriotism and every voter who will earn less than $10M this year needs to read the full text of Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s Boston Globe review of how the billionaires are buying Washington.

It is not over; the U.S. did not recover. The billionaire fraud against the American people was not a “mistake.” It was planned by the billionaires, protected by new laws passed under both Clinton and Bush, and facilitated by the $3T neo-con adventure in Iraq. When the feeding frenzy of the billionaires got out-of-control, their paid agents took care of them (using your money), and now they are fully confident that the American people in their wisdom will vote the guilty right back into office.

You can’t win a class war if you don’t even know one is being forced upon you.
Technical Note:

Since my references to bad billionaires admittedly may sound, to the uninformed, like a conspiracy theory, consider:
·          The share of income earned by the top 1% of Americans is now higher than it has been since 1928, just before the Great Depression. [Hacker and Pearson, Winner-Take-All Politics, pp. 15-16.];
·          The bottom 90% (yeah, ninety) of the population has been below average household income between 1979 and 2006; [p. 25] (think it’s gotten better since?)
·          It is now easier for a poor person (like Lincoln, for example) to rise up in Australia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Spain, France, or Canada than in the U.S. [p. 29] (What do you mean, “American” dream?)
·          Among rich nations, the U.S. level of doctors, hospital beds, and nurses is below average but the U.S. has “the highest rate of preventable death before age seventy-five”; [p. 31]
·          The U.S. has the richest elite (top 1%); [p. 38]
·          “In 2006, the top twenty-five hedge fund managers earned nearly $600 M on average.”  The top hedge fund earner raked in $1.7B;[p. 51]
·          Billionaires, when they pay taxes at all, pay at the lowered, new, privileged legal rate of 15% set in 2003, not coincidentally the same year the U.S. invaded Iraq (when you “earn” money by manipulating other people’s money, your tax rate is about half the rate paid by someone who works a regular job).

Regulating Yourself

The presence of J.P. Morgan’s Dimon on the New York Fed board symbolizes the continuing fraud of a financial system in which police are magically unnecessary because the perps ensure their own honesty.

It was, for Americans, a very long time ago, but back in 2007, the U.S. financial system essentially collapsed and had to be pumped back up by a bailout of billionaires with tax dollars–a bailout so indefensibly large and so utterly under the table and string-free (the word for that is “corruption”) that to this day the government is hiding the true amount from the taxpayers who footed the bill. How that scandalous tango between bankers too big to prosecute and their buddies in Washington (Paulson, Geithner, Bernanke, Bush, and in the end Obama) occurred has of course now been related in detail. No matter. The key to the  whole confusing mess was quite simple – the Government decided that instead of earning its salary by regulating, it would just “trust.” And at the core of this trust was the New York Fed, essentially a regulatory agency held captive by Wall St.

Nothing has changed. Geithner moved from running the Fed to running the Treasury, and Jamie Dimon, Exhibit #1 for the prosecution, is on the Fed’s board. Dimon of course has been the leader of the pack demanding Washington write new regulatory laws designed, once again, to grant Wall St. a blank slate, and the courageous, patriotic Democrats have of course been caving in. The one person who has not been caving in was run out of Washington and is now running for the Senate from Massachusetts.

Her reaction to the latest revelations from Wall St.: Dimon should resign from the Fed because “he advises the Federal Reserve on the oversight of the financial industry.” [Bloomberg 5/13/12.] In other words, he advises Washington on oversight over himself. That is how our democracy works. Ain’t it cosy?

Now if Obama happened to want to distinguish himself from Mini-Dubya for the upcoming campaign, calling for a law prohibiting financial executives from serving on the N.Y. Fed either during or at any time after their corporate careers might be a good place to start. Then he could fire Geithner and replace him with someone independent of Wall St., say, Elizabeth Warren. 

Discussing Austerity Sincerely

“Austerity” is a deadly serious concept that needs to be discussed sincerely, not used as a propaganda club by ambitious politicians.

One sees now in Europe the same artificial argument that has plagued Washington since 2007. With almost no one in the ruling elite willing to admit that the guilty party is the whole ruling elite and that the solution is fundamental systemic reform, presumably to be implemented by rulers who did not partake in that guilt, half the elite claims that austerity must be inflicted on the poor (i.e., the thin must diet) while the other half calls for debt-financed growth. Neither bites the bullet to say that, yes, austerity is called for – but it should be austerity for the rich, while, yes, growth is called for – but it should be growth financed by the rich.

Imagine a system in which building real stuff (solar panel factories, new dams, mass transit systems) paid a higher return to investors than buying derivatives. All it would take is a trivial manipulation of the tax code. 

That $2B the brilliant financial manager Jamie Dimon* just tossed down the drain could have made the U.S. the world leader in the new industrial world of solar energy. Of course, it was only $2B (or maybe $3B, if you want to be picky). Chump change. Maybe that approach would take time, but the top 0.1% of U.S. households now sucks up a cool $1Trillion every year and then there’s that $200B or so every year that could be sliced off the Pentagon’s budget and still leave the U.S. with an obscene military superiority over all its potential adversaries combined. And, after all, we have already wasted five full years since 2007. Imagine what could have been done if Obama had entered the White House determined to implement real financial reform!

At least in Europe, a serious dialogue about austerity is beginning to emerge, thanks to Hollande and Tsipras. Americans still prefer to pretend everything is OK with the nation’s basic socio-economic structure; it’s easier to trade insults and get all hot about whether two consenting adults living together should call themselves bride and groom or just two consenting adults living together.
*The Emerging J.P.Morgan Scandal – Egregious Mistake or Crime?

  • LA Times 5/14/12:  “There’s evidence that the department where the Whale worked was, in fact, replicating Morgan’s real-life business of lending to corporations, but using fancy derivatives to do so — creating a “synthetic” bank, as traders would say, without actually lending to corporate customers as real banks do.
  • If that’s true, the question is why? To put it another way, if JPMorgan had $350 billion sitting around idle (the sum the Whale’s department appeared to have to play with), why not use it to do something that helps the economy — such as, you know, lending it to businesses? Instead, JPMorgan used the money to buy chips to play in the derivatives casino, which doesn’t help the economy one bit.”
  • Bloomberg 5/14/12: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are investigating, according to people familiar with the probes.
  • New York Times 5/17/12: Dimon slowly coming clean: “What this hedge morphed into violates our own principles.”

Austerity for the Rich

Austerity is a valuable skill; all men, not to mention, all societies, should know how to bite that bullet when unavoidable. But it is not a casual endeavor. If you believe in austerity, practice it.

The problem with Greece is not the refusal of the hungry to hold their breath at dinner so the rich can further engorge themselves. The problem is that those advocating austerity want to bestow it upon others without partaking themselves. When the 99% see the rich practicing austerity, when the 99% see the rich sacrificing in a patriotic fervor to maintain society, then how can they fail to join in?

There may indeed come a time when the average worker will have to cut back, but long before that need be done, many other preliminary steps should be taken, for example:

  • Capital gains should be taxed at twice the rate of income of the bottom 90%;
  • Derivative trading should be heavily taxed;
  • Corporations should actually pay the legal tax rate rather than escaping through foreign tax shelters and other tricks.

I could continue, but perhaps I should pause now to give the rich time to stand up and cooperate voluntarily.

Diets are for the fat. When the fat man tells the thin man to stop eating, it is time for the thin man to grab the fat man’s dinner.

Twenty-First Century Class War

The economic ship of the West is dead in the water because the wind of social egalitarianism that has blown strong since the New Deal and victory over fascism has been replaced by a new class war by the uber-rich.

The uber-rich of the extreme right has decided to abandon the New Deal compromise and launch a class war against the 99%. This is not ideological hot air. Protection of rich financial criminals, bailouts of fraudulent corporations, planetary environmental poisoning, the intentional promotion of bubbles, the exploitation of natural and political disasters to further enrich the rich, and direct attacks against democracy to suppress public criticism that might “embarrass” the rich constitute the 21st century weapons of choice for class warfare. Wealth should be built on a rich society, not the zero-sum game of the rich stealing from the poor. This paragraph is a huge accusation of unpatriotic behavior and deserves extremely careful analysis, which is indeed being done by numerous specialists and protest groups, but perhaps a few points are worth spelling out here:

Oil-Poisoned Turtle, Courtesy of BP, an “Innocent Corporate Person”

    Torturing the Unindicted, Courtesy of the Neo-Cons
  • when an imperial project to shore up superpower control over other societies that aspire to independence, not to mention grabbing their resources, goes to the extreme of destroying their whole society, the whole world has been impoverished;
  • when a country behaves with such viciousness, it harms itself, a conclusion all the more true when that country is a democracy that aspires to lead the world by example;
  • when government oppresses free speech to protect fraudulent corporations from being publicly criticized.

Such is class war in the 21st century.

If you still think that “fraud,” i.e., criminal behavior, is too strong a term for the broad behavior over the last decade of the financial elite of the U.S. on Wall St. and in the home mortgage industry or if you do not think Washington is complicit in this fraud, consider this:

Fraud does not even make Geithner’s list of contributing factors to financial crises.  The U.S. has experienced three recent financial crises – the S&L debacle (which is the subject of this first installment), the Enron era frauds, and the ongoing crisis.  Accounting control fraud is the leading cause of each of the crises.  “Control fraud” is the term white-collar criminologists use to refer to frauds in which the person controlling a seemingly legitimate entity uses it as a “weapon” to defraud.  Accounting is the “weapon of choice” for elite financial frauds.  Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime – combined. [William Black on New Economic Perspectives.]

The latest case in point is the effort by Bank of America to resist stockholder demands that it review its own foreclosure practices! 

The New York City pension funds and 9 other institutional investors are urging Bank of America to conduct a thorough review of its foreclosure practices and report the results to shareholders. BofA has been plagued by widespread allegations of fraud in the foreclosure process, with a report from the Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development finding that the bank’s management was involved in the improper foreclosure practices. BofA management opposes the shareholder resolution that would require a review of foreclosure practices. [Huffington Post 5/9/12.]

Demanding that BOA officials be jailed might, indeed, meet with resistance on the part of those officials, but why would they resist calls for them to conduct their own internal reviews…unless they were already well aware they had plenty to hide? 

The key to solving the problem is for Americans to realize that war abroad and theft at home are two sides of the same class war coin. Socially conscious domestic policy  (policy designed to care for the 99%) does not fit well with a foreign policy based on force. Such a combination would constitute a self-contradictory combination. To put it simply, leaders of imperialist campaigns see citizens as cannon fodder, not those they serve. Moreover, force (more specifically, the American way of high-tech war) is expensive.

Were the uber-rich (e.g., Romney, the Koch brothers, Mozillo, the CEO’s of the horde of war profiteer corporations like Halliburton, and the officials of Big Oil) to pay their fair share for their privileges, enormous strides toward bringing America back could be made. There is much to be done – creating a world-class solar industry, cleaning up New Orleans…

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration remains stuck in essentially a neo-con foreign policy of playing a zero-sum game of U.S. supremacy at the expense of justice for Muslim societies and a “neo-liberal” (i.e., very conservative, exploitative) domestic policy of protecting billionaires at the expense of society.

Voting for the National Interest…and Yours

Unless you happen to be a multi-millionaire living only for today and with your money carefully hidden off-shore, understanding the “national” interest is easy; it is the same as yours.

Workers are disillusioned and giving up, while the stock market is booming, and income disparity was at historic heights even back in 2007 when the anti-regulatory Republicans were mumbling nonsense about the tide that “lifts all boats.” Over the last five years we have all seen what has happened to the boats of virtually everyone. The socio-economic foundation of American democracy is cracked and crumbling.
The story of the post-Reagan era up to 2007 is given in the astounding chart to the right (made by Mother Jones but using Congressional Budget Office data) showing how the “Reagan Revolution” totally ignored the bottom 80% (!) of Americans and passed a few crumbs to the next 19% in order to enrich the top 1%. As for the story of what has happened since 2007 (with the Democrats now fully engaged in running the bipartisan financial system by the rich, of the rich, and for the rich):

At 63.6%, the portion of the working-age population participating in the job market is now at its lowest level since 1981. [CNN 5/4/12.]

A choice does exist, though few Americans being impoverished by this bipartisan government of, by, and for the rich, seem awake enough to consider how their votes relate to their financial tribulations.

The Choice
The choice is to recognize the control of the super-rich over the two-party system and walk away by voting for independent parties. Consider, for example, the specificity of this comment by Jill Stein, candidate for Green Party nomination:

The Green New Deal will end unemployment in America. Of course, such a thing as ending unemployment would never occur to Washington politicians because their corporate backers depend on the threat of unemployment to keep wages down. But ending unemployment, and more, is front and center on the minds of Greens.
As Greens we are committed to im­proving the conditions of working people by an immediate halt to home foreclosures and evictions, and guarantying health care for everyone as a human right through Medicare for All.

Could Jill Stein, if elected President, achieve these goals? Hard to say, but at least the goals she sets are clear (e.g., health care as a right, a halt to foreclosures) and are in the national (not elite) interest.

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