Where are Seniors in the Fight for Social Security and Pensions?

New Orleans      I’m scratching my head.  Somehow, I’ve noticed something weird around the world, and it’s not adding up, or at least not adding up the way it should.  Maybe you have noticed it as well.  There are a lot of protests here and abroad about cutbacks and threats to pensions and benefit programs, but, surprisingly to me, they are being led and populated mainly by younger people without much participation by actual beneficiaries who are older or claimants.  What’s up with that?

In Nicaragua there have been days of protests led by young people over the government’s proposal to cut social security benefits to pay for rising medical costs.  In this instance social security is meant in the global sense of benefits for the unemployed or unable to work, rather than the United States linguistic politicization that terms any benefits, earned like unemployment or given as welfare complete with all the cultural baggage that carries.

In England university workers struck for weeks over attempts to change the nature of the pension program from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program.  Their strike was powerful, but what they have won so far is a delay for a study committee that many activists worry will not be satisfactory.

Unrest and protests have been rising in France over curtailment not only of hard won workers’ rights but also the Macron government’s actions to dismantle various welfare benefits and entitlements.

Young, largely female teacher strikers in the United States have protested and gone on strike in recent months and among their issues have been protecting deterioration of pensions.

Where are the pensioners?  The seniors?  The recipients?

Some are there for sure, but too many are leaving the fight to their children, literally and metaphorically speaking.  At some level there’s simply an air of defeat, a sort of “I did my best, so good luck to the rest.”  Or worse, an attitude of “I’ve got mine, too bad about you.”

If welfare recipients and seniors are not protesting, isn’t it too much to ask young people to lead the fight?  Honestly, ask yourself, how many young people trying to survive in gig and informal economy jobs, find homes, lovers, and friends, have time – or interest – in what they might need in bad times or twenty, thirty or forty years from now.

Politicians and governments are counting on this indifference from the young and old.  Changes are often red-circles to exempt the old or punish the young in the future while there are not yet fighters even old enough to take the field in their own interest.

Seems like solidarity, good citizenship, and love of our families, friends, co-workers and communities demands those of us who understand the benefits and stand towards the front line, need to also be among the first to put our feet in the streets to stand up for the importance of these benefits to the quality of life, if not survival, for tens of millions.

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Wells Fargo and its Enablers are Whining

New Orleans     News reports, partially attributable to banking giant, Wells Fargo, indicate that they are about to face an additional fine of $1 billion dollars from a variety of governmental agencies including the largely de-fanged Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for their high crimes and misdeeds.  As everyone should be ceaselessly reminded in the case of this criminal enterprise, they were found to have opened accounts without permission for consumers and in other cases, jacked up interest rates for different consumers on auto loans, and a handful of other practices called mildly “customer abuse,” but really plain stealing from their customers.  This one billion is on top of more than four billion that they have also been fined by the Federal Reserve in addition to a public slap down administered by Janet Yellin, former head of the Federal Reserve, as she dropped the microphone in one of her final acts before surrendering the post to Trump’s appointed successor.

In my view Wells Fargo has long been a criminal and near criminal conspiracy that has permanently damaged countless neighborhoods and millions of families.  All of these penalties are past due recognition of the outrageous, litigate and coverup, money first before all things culture that has characterized the bank for years.  The fact that none of the executives were criminally charged is a testament to the coziness of class in America and the huge corporate legal shield built around banks and other businesses.  Real regulators would have seized the bank, taken away their charter, put them on permanent supervision, or any number of other steps that would have forced change rather than allowing them to pay some and charge off the rest of these billions of dollars’ worth of fines on their books and taxes.

Amazingly, a columnist in the New York Times, James Stewart, has summoned a bunch of business school professors for statements that maybe Wells Fargo has been “punished too much.”  He mentions that no executive was criminally charged.  I would have been all for that as well, but they were shielded by the corporation itself.  Liability exists for the corporation when the practices are systemic, which is why it is just that the corporation be fined for its front-to-back rip-off culture.

Stewart, with the professors, tries to plead for the poor shareholders, mainly big timers and institutions which dominate all of these markets, as being the ones punished.  Incredible!  Where were the shareholders, as they rubber stamped board and management practices annually while all of this abuse was happening?  Did the shareholders demand board changes and board resignations?  No, that was the Federal Reserve, not the shareholders.

Stewart and other bank apologists want to argue that the bank is taking great steps to change.  Another billion dollars fine seems like a good way to make them move even faster and more forcefully to change their culture.  Maybe even permanently.

The shareholders looked the other way when Wells Fargo was padding its books with these practices and enjoyed the good times.  There’s some justice in the shareholders having to also pay a price for the bank’s grand larceny in these times.

The business school professors might want to take some of the ethics classes at their colleges.  They can invite Stewart to audit those classes as well.

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