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Post-Racial America

George Soros Is A Goddamn HERO

And it's time we started saying so!

Huddle up, kids! I'm about to tell you Uncle George Soros's One Weird Trick for making money. READY?

Figure out the difference between reality and the BS people believe because they want it to be true, and bet the spread. You can call it arbitrage, or use his own "Theory of Reflexivity" terminology, but that's basically it. George Soros didn't invent it, and he sure as hell didn't make the laws that allow it, but he did use them and his own prodigious intellect to make billions betting against the British pound in 1992. For which he was labeled "The Man Who Broke the Bank of England." Welcome to being a Jew in the modern world -- play the game by rules you didn't set up, then get called a cheater when you win.

Yes, this is less worse than African Americans having to work twice as hard to get half as far. But we are not in competition for world's most oppressed minority. It's not a zero-sum game, and we all need to lift each other up. Indeed, George Soros spent tens of billions of dollars lifting up poor people across the globe and promoting democracy. And that's why Republicans hate him. Because in their screwed-up worldview, a man who put up $35 million to secure matching federal funds to get every poor kid in New York City $200 for school supplies is an existential threat to the American way of life. Very Christian!

And he did flee the Nazis, by the way. Trump's bigoted base happily swallows lies peddled by Fox and the wingnut demimonde that Soros was a collaborator who led Jewish deportees to their deaths, or even that he was an SS officer. In fact, he was a 14-year-old Jewish boy in Hungary, using false papers claiming to be a Christian child, who fled to England, started out hawking souvenirs, and wound up with a master's degree from the London School of Economics. He became the most successful hedge fund manager in history, and went on to donate at least $20 billion to making the world a fairer place through various pro-democracy and pro-Democratic efforts. Which is philanthropy and political activism when your side does it, but is nefarious fifth-column stuff when the donor is on the other side. And so much the better if he's an un-photogenic Jew with an accent!

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Russia

You Wouldn't Like Him When He's Nice. Wonkagenda For Thurs., Oct. 25, 2018

More bombs discovered, Trump blames the media (again), and zombie TrumpCare just won't die. Your morning news brief!

Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today.

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economics

NO TARIFFS! NO TARIFFS! YOU ARE THE IMAGINARY, NONEXISTENT TARIFFS!

Who ya gonna believe ... ?

We know that Donald Trump lies all the time, but even by the debased standards of Commander Gaslight, this one's a whopper. See if you can spot the point where this interview with the Wall Street Journal went all the way off the rails. (We're kidding. It was already crazytimes when Trump said he might have to fire Fed Chair Jerome Powell for looking happy about interest rate hikes.)

Mr. Trump said he views tariffs, which have been a centerpiece of his "America First" economic and trade agenda in his first two years in office, as a negotiating tactic and vastly understated the size of the tariff regime put in place by his administration.

"We don't even have tariffs. I'm using tariffs to negotiate," the president said, describing the tariffs on steel and aluminum he imposed this year as "small." The U.S. this year imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum, washers and solar panels, as well as tariffs on an additional $250 billion of Chinese imports. Some businesses have supported the tariffs, but many have said they hurt their profits and could lead to higher prices for customers.

Vastly understated? Ya think? In the second quarter alone, the Congressional Research Service says the government collected $1.1 billion from a 25 percent tariff on imported steel, and another $344 million from a 10 percent levy on aluminum. Just last month we enacted a 10 percent levy on $250 billion of imported goods -- and that's set to ramp up to 25 percent by the end of the year. By our ladybrain math, that works out to $50 billion per year, although we didn't buy our way into Wharton like some people.

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News

White House Releases Freshman Essay 'The Socialism, It Is STINKY And BAD'

Wanna read something REALLY stupid???

The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) isn't usually the sort of crowd you'd assume sounds like Sean Hannity on a bender, but that's only because previous presidents made the mistake of hiring bland grey economists who focused on boring economic stuff, not the perils of the USA suddenly putting Lenin and Mao in charge of national policy, which could totally happen, according to a new 72-page report by Donald Trump's CEA. Titled "The Opportunity Costs of Socialism," the report warns America that while no members of the US political establishment are advocating we adopt collectivized farming, the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, or Hugo Chavez's nationalization of the oil industry, there are definitely some Democrats who'd like Medicare for All, so let's take a look at why Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were total cucks, OK? Also, even more modest socialist-lite systems like those in Scandinavia are bad, because have you seen how expensive owning a pickup truck in Finland is?

We are literally not making this up. The report actually says that. It's like a bunch of frat bros snorted Heritage Foundation white papers and turned in a term paper, only with fewer misspellings. In fact, we can say in all honesty that this is one of the most neatly typed, correctly spelled John Birch Society pamphlets we've ever read. On that measure at least, it's WAY better than a lot of White House output. These economists definitely take pride in their work, because capitalism encourages quality.

Lest you insist we're joking, let's look at this excerpt from pp. 7-8, which proves the links between Marx, Mao, and two Democrats in the US Senate because ALL use the term "exploitation":

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Class War

Cory Booker Doing Class Warfare, OH NOOOOOO

Help all American-born kids by reinstating the Estate Tax? How is that fair?

Senator Cory Booker, not one to be left behind while Kamala Harris is scaring Sean Hannity with talk of universal basic income, has his own plan for doing class war in America: How about we return the inheritance tax to its 2009 level and use the money to give every single child born in America a savings account, so all kids will come into some wealth when they become adults? The plan would be indexed to family income, so the poorer you are, the more money would be added annually up to the age of 18. And while he's at it, Booker would make sure the accounts could only be used for life-making-better things like education or buying a home, for instance. So, sorry, nobody could just cash out and buy a fur sink, an electric dog polisher, or a gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater, not to mention dumb stuff like investment-grade Beanie Babies or Jon McNaughton paintings.

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White Nonsense

Beware The Return Of Zombie TrumpCare Junior, Again. Wonkagenda For Tues., Oct. 23, 2018

Turkey's drip-drip-drip, Trump strips away MORE healthcare protections, and Alex Jones yells at a pile of shit. Your morning news brief!

Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today.

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Russia

'We Got A Great Big Convoy.' Wonkagenda For Mon. Oct. 22, 2018

Turkey's got tapes, there's more Russian hacking, and a caravan immigrants. Your morning news brief!

Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today.

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Russia

GOOD MORNING MONTANA. Wonkagenda For Fri., Oct. 19, 2018

Trump tries to change the story, Zinke gets caught grifting, and Nikki Haley's got jokes. Your morning news brief!

Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today.

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Science

Facebook Forgot To Carry The One, Killed Journalism. ALLEGEDLY.

A new lawsuit claims Facebook knew damn well what it was breaking, and didn't care.

Recently unveiled documents suggest Facebook was blowing smoke up everyone's ass when it was bragging about the "pivot to video" back in 2016. A small group of advertisers, who already filed a suit against Facebook for unfair business practices, have added a claim of fraud now that internal documents show how badly Facebook was screwing its customers. They accuse Facebook of a "mentality of reckless indifference" that caused businesses to spend more money based on phony reports, even after Facebook's own engineers knew something was broken. It's too bad Facebook already cashed their checks.

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News

Kamala Harris Has Good Idea For Economy: Give Poor People Money To Buy Stuff.

Class War is good for you.

Kamala Harris is just one of several Democrats who'd like you to think about an alternative to the Republicans' Great Big Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads bill from last year. Instead of redistributing wealth to those who are already rich, how about we make a similar outlay in public spending, but give it to middle and working class people who would spend most of it on rent, groceries, a treat sometimes, and other basics, which would create demand for products and actually spread wealth through the economy? As we've already seen, Trump's tax cut for corporations and the already wealthy has mostly gone into stock buybacks, not to workers, so what about if we give millions of people the ability to buy groceries and furniture and school supplies, instead of helping out yacht brokers?

Does that sound like class war? Bet your sweet ass it does -- but it's really a counterattack after nearly 40 years of Reaganism.

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economics

GOP Hack Will Ensure Ryan Zinke's Ethics Are Up To Ben Carson's Gold Standard

Hackety hack hack HACK!

Looks like Ryan Zinke's getting some new office furniture. And maybe a Get Out of Jail Free Card, that lucky scamp! Because the Republican hack dispatched to disappear Ben Carson's furniture problem at HUD is getting shifted over to the Interior Department to (cough, cough) "supervise" the investigation into the Interior Secretary's multiple ethics problems. Will she saw them all in half and make them vanish in a puff of acrid, carcinogenic smoke? PROBABLY!

Remember back in February we told you about all that unpleasantness when Candy Carson wanted to spend $200,000 redecorating the office for her husband, HUD's Holy Housing Healer? But then mean Helen Foster, a career official at the agency, refused to sign off on anything over the legally allotted $5,000, even when they splained that Carson totally needed that $31,561 table. And then she refused to handle information requests about the Trump wedding planner's purge of Democrats "outside the normal FOIA processes," whatever that means. OMG, what a bitch, right?

Luckily, a member of the Carson posse did a little research and discovered that, during the Bush administration, there had been an Assistant Secretary for Administration who got to boss everyone around. And they had just the woman for the job! Enter Suzanne Israel Tufts, a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association, who had just provided invaluable services to the Trump Campaign as a "deployment leader" supervising the polls in Philadelphia. Whatever that means. So Candy and Ben got to decorate their office in a manner befitting God's Own Elect, and nothing was ever heard about those pesky furniture issues again.

Guess who's the new Inspector General at the Interior Department!

Why yes, it's Suzanne Israel Tufts who can waltz right in today, because she's already been confirmed by the Senate to another executive branch job. How clever of you to suss it out! And no, ethics investigations are NOT usually conducted by partisan political appointees with zero compliance or ethics experience, but here in Trumpland, the swamp drains you!

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Healthcare

Mitch McConnell Knows Who Is To Blame For Deficit: Grandma Millie And Her Oxygen Machine

Maybe another great big tax cut would fix this.

Mitch McConnell staked out bold territory in an interview with Bloomberg News published Tuesday, explaining that with Republicans in control of the White House, House and Senate, there's almost certainly no possibility they'll ever take any action to control the debt and deficit, because obviously Republicans only worry about deficits when Democrats are running things. But at least he was clear on one thing: The main reason the USA has a deficit problem is that we simply can't afford Medicare and Social Security, and by golly, the Republicans' $1.5 trillion tax cut last year contributed NOTHING to the debt, because duh, tax cuts are good and "entitlements" are bad, don't you know anything about economics?

Echoing Paul Ryan over the summer (and last winter ... and the winter before that ... and 2012 ...) McConnell insisted that with Washington Politicians unwilling to stick to a budget (like, say, passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut), there just doesn't seem to be the will for bipartisan deficit cutting, because it would have to be bipartisan, don't you understand?

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2018 State and Local Elections

'Guilty Until Proven Innocent.' Wonkagenda For Wed., Oct. 17, 2018

Trump does more interviews, voter suppression is already happening, and Canada legalized weed. Your morning news brief.

Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today.

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News

Sears Bankruptcy Yet Another Reminder Mitt Romney Should Go To Hell

'Vulture Capitalists' is very unfair to birds that fill a necessary ecological niche.

Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday, and you're going to hear a lot of fond memories about kids looking through the annual Wish Book for Christmas gifts (Yr Dok Zoom helpfully included item numbers in at least one letter to Santa), and much wise commentary about how the old catalog and brick-n-mortar retailer just couldn't keep up in the age of Walmart and Amazon. And to a degree, those analyses have a point, but if they don't also attribute the death of Sears to the tender mercies of a venture capitalist dismantling a troubled but not doomed enterprise and making assloads of money off it, then they're not very honest autopsies. Sears may have had an outmoded business model, but surgeons seldom revive a patient by selling all the poor bastard's internal organs to the highest bidder.

Now, before Accuracy In Dumb 'Media Bias' Charts start complaining our hed is misleading propaganda, let's make clear that Mitt Romney had nothing to do with the demise of Sears. But the model of legalized piracy he embodied while running Bain Capital certainly does: Buy a big company with borrowed money, sell off every last profitable part of it, squeeze interest payments and dividends out (leaving it cash-poor), then put the empty husk into bankruptcy and screw the employees for being foolish enough to think they had "jobs." It's what Bain did to Toys R Us (and KB Toys before that) with the help of two other venture capital partners (including Jared Kushner's business partners at Vornado, natch). They bought the huge toy retailer with a vast amount of leveraged debt that no amount of Barbies or Hot Wheel sales could ever pay off, made off with all the profits, and shitcanned 30,000 workers without a cent of severance pay -- although management magnanimously announced, "in lieu of [severance] payment we were able to provide a minimum of 60 days notice to help employees begin their transitions." As they were required to, at a minimum, by law.

In the case of Sears, the pirate who took over the helm was hedge fund manager Edward Lampert, who owned the most shares of Sears and, until the bankruptcy filing yesterday, was also the company CEO. Here's Barron's, no home for "Internationale"-singing socialists, on the wise business practices Lampert brought to Sears, which he acquired it in 2005, merging it with Kmart:

A disciple of free-market theory and Ayn Rand, Lampert divided its business units to fiefs to war against each other and, as losses mounted, closed stores instead of reinvesting in them.

A stint in risk arbitrage at Goldman Sachs lead Lampert to found the hedge fund ESL Investments in his 20s. There, he bet on undervalued stocks, which made him a billionaire by his 40s and made him think he had better ideas for Kmart and Sears than retail experts.

Guess Retail Will Eat Itself isn't a good name for a band, then. And while ESL lost money on Sears, it's also possible Lampert managed to get a profit out of his tenure -- and even if the company is headed down the tubes, he still stands to make money.

The next chapter is already in focus, since he began laying the groundwork three years ago: the sale of 235 Sears- and Kmart-branded stores served as the foundation for real estate investment trust Seritage Growth Properties (SRG). Lampert is Seritage's biggest shareholder and board chairman. The sale gave Sears $2.7 billion in proceeds, which helped it stay afloat. Which was brilliant, because then Lampert could pay himself and Seritage millions of dollars a year in rent, while he parceled off Sears assets and brands.

Oh, sure, a bunch of employees and suppliers that relied on doing business with Sears may be shit out of luck, but there's still money for Lampert to wring out of the dying brand. He offloaded Craftsman Tools earlier this year, and if he can find an equity partner to finance the deal, Lampert would very much like to purchase the Kenmore appliance brand for $400 million so he can sack it -- assuming the bankruptcy judge approves the sale and no higher bidders turn up.

And just like Toys R Us vainly hoped last year, Lampert announced Sears Holdings looks to the holiday retail season to turn things around, but 142 Kmart and Sears locations will go out of business after January 1. Maybe the remaining 300 locations will be able to survive reorganization, but it seems unlikely given the Toys R Us model:

Jeffrey Pierce of Snow Park Capital drew the contrast with Toys "R" Us: That company was solvent and had good sales, but it "needed a financial restructuring," he says, but Sears "has a operational problem, and bankruptcy doesn't solve operational problems, it makes them worse."

"When it was a financial problem, you could have fixed it; as it became a both operational problem and a financial problem, the prospects to fix it out of court became increasingly dim."

Remember how Mitt Romney wanted to put his business savvy to work as president? We managed to dodge that bullet, but there was a black man in the White House, so now we have a different debt expert there, and Romney hopes to replace Orrin Hatch in the Senate. Then he can help write the financial rules for this fine land, and won't we all be happy then? Fuck him and his creepy voracious job-destroying buddies: Support Jenny Wilson and send Romney the hell back to his car elevator.

[Barron's (if it's pissy about the paywall, try an "incognito" tab) / The Nation / NBC News / NYPost / Activist Post]

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