If anyone in America was unsure what unmitigated greed entails, or to what extent the Koch brothers and Wall Street will go to enrich themselves at the expense of others, two events this week should clarify how they have transcended the normal definition of greed. This abnormal greed goes far beyond a dangerous lust to possess wealth; it derives from a philosophical bent that no-one in America except the wealthy elite should have anything. Now that the Kochs and Wall Street have successfully acquired many state legislatures and the United States Congress, the national campaign they launched last year to impoverish the entire population is nearing fruition as they are a step closer to eliminating public and private sector pensions to enrich the wealthy.
First, despite sending his state into an economic tailspin after squandering a budget surplus and cutting services to provide unimaginable tax cuts for the rich, Kansas governor Sam Brownback is robbing employee pensions to cover the state’s devastating budget shortfalls. Brownback defended his decision to cut employee’s pensions to help fill ongoing budget shortfalls since he gave the wealthy unfunded tax cuts; like the tax cuts, Brownback is being heavily criticized by leaders in his own party. He said “It’s kind of, uh, well where are you going to go for the funds? It’s kind of what’s your other option?”
The other option would be rescinding the outrageous tax cuts for the rich, but that is something the Koch brothers will not allow when retirees’ pensions are available to rob. Brownback would take more from education, but the Kansas Supreme Court already forced him to stop stealing from schools to fund the tax cuts for the rich. There is no provision to stop Brownback from stealing from retirees to fund the one-percent’s tax cuts that has been a well-planned scheme courtesy of the Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Wall Street, and the State Policy Network (SPN).
Last year this column reported that The State Policy Network (SPN), a Koch-funded sister organization of ALEC, boasts itself as a group of “free-market think tanks” that would initially target six different states to eliminate public sector pensions; Kansas was one of those states. The group’s primary objective was to achieve its stated goals founded on the Kochs’ “commitment to free enterprise including reforming (robbing) public employee pensions.” It is what Brownback is doing in Kansas and now that the Kochs control Congress, Republicans are implementing “pension reform” earlier than expected with a “rider” in the so-called “CRomnibus” appropriations bill.
The CRomnibus is supposed to be about annual appropriations for government agencies, not gutting campaign finance laws or allowing Wall Street to unilaterally cut private employee’s pensions; Wall Street already decimated the private pension accounts in the 2008 financial collapse, but apparently it was not enough to satiate their greed. So the House inserted an esoteric ‘rider’ in the bill meant to fund the government along with one to abolish campaign reform law and deregulate Wall Street for the next financial collapse. The “gut private pensions” initiative will not create one job, will not grow the economy, or reduce the nation’s debt and deficit. It is a giant bailout gift to Wall Street for sending the nation’s economy over the cliff in 2008 and authority to rob retirees’ pension accounts. The rider’s language gives Wall Street unlimited and unilateral power to cut retirement benefits to millions of current retirees whose pension accounts are tied up in the same private plans Wall Street nearly wiped out just six years ago.
Experts say if the initiative is enacted, it would be the most consequential change to retirement policy in the United States since the landmark pension legislation passed 40 years ago. Wall Street and the Koch brothers have had their sights set on abolishing the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) with the same intent as seizing control of the Social Security Trust Fund. The goal is empowering the rich to cut retirees’ formerly guaranteed benefits to extinction, and this CRomnibus abomination will enable them to see the Kochs’ “commitment reforming (robbing) public employee pensions” to fruition earlier than they expected. The 40-year old ERISA was enacted to protect the lifelong pension investments of millions of retirees the Koch-Wall Street criminals insist belongs to them. Republicans agree with the Kochs and Wall Street that retired people cannot have their retirement savings because it belongs to the rich.
This idea that Americans’ pensions belong to the rich was best elucidated by Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfien in 2012 when he said that people expecting their Social Security “are not going to get it.” He said regardless what people think, their lifelong investments are something that “we can’t afford.” Those retirement accounts, whether invested in Social Security or private retirement plans do not belong to “we” (the rich), they belong to the people who paid into them throughout their working lives. However, according to Blankfein who speaks for the Koch brothers, “things have to change” because “we can’t afford them;” whether it is Social Security or private retirement accounts. Accounts Republicans intend giving Wall Street the power to cut because Wall Street “can’t afford them” either.
What Brownback is doing in Kansas, cutting employee pensions to pay for tax cuts for the rich is tantamount to Congress giving Wall Street power to cut pensions to satisfy their greed. Those pension accounts belong to the people who paid into them; not Wall Street or Kansas millionaires and billionaires like the Koch brothers. Republicans have dutifully served the Kochs by decimating the middle class and sending more of them into poverty to enrich the wealthy over the past 20 years, and now they are pursuing what was at one time an untapped and federally protected resource; retired Americans’ pensions they saved and paid into over their working lives.
This is the class war billionaire Warren Buffet admitted his class was winning, and if any American doubted that the Kochs or Wall Street would stop at robbing retired people’s incomes to satisfy their absolute greed, they are fools. Obviously, America is flush with fools because besides giving the Koch brothers and Wall Street the United States Congress, they gave them authority to steal their pensions and condemn them to poverty in their old age.