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Won’t get fooled again? Wanna bet?

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No one has borne the disastrous impact of Wall Street greed than the city of Detroit. This photo was taken at a demonstration in 2010 organized by the Detroit Police Officers Association who have been engaged in a mostly losing battle to try and hold onto their pay, benefits and pensions.

Only working with your union or association are you going to fight this train wreck coming at us.

Billionaires have been taking your retirement money and now they want more. Much more –  like all of it. Thankfully Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi has not been assassinated or muzzled. Taibbi is basically one-stop shopping for anyone that wants to educate themselves about what the ruling class is up to and how that will impact your retirement. Ignore this man at your peril.

 

By Mark Nichols, Editor
American Police Beat

People like to talk about the “crime of the century.” Was it the Lufthansa heist? The Gardner Museum robbery? Maybe it was Capone’s $2 billion made off prohibition. While those scores are all impressive in their own way, they’re actually small potatoes.

The crime of the century, for which not a solitary soul has been sent to jail, was the fleecing of public pension funds by Wall Street money men. Not only did the bad guys get away clean, they’re about to do it again.

That’s the advantage of being a player like Pete Peterson, John Arnold or Dick Armey. You know you’re above the law – an untouchable master of the universe.

The only question that remains is whether or not the people that manage your retirement money will get played for suckers again by the same folks who talked retirement systems into heavily investing in the subprime mortgage market.

One of the big problems with awareness about private interests robbing the public coffers is that the details are complicated, bureaucratic and lack any of the sexy stuff Americans are used to when it

The perps are Ivy Leaguers in $5000 suits. There are no tactical teams storming housing projects or trailer parks. And odds are that most of the DOJ lawyers are far more interested in going to work for the people they’re supposed to be investigating than doing their jobs.

Attorney General Eric Holder is a classic example. He used to work at Covington and Burling – a high-powered D.C. law firm that represents the very people that wrecked the economy, got bailed and then complained about criticism. Dollars to donuts he’ll be right back there when Obama leaves office. Makes one wonder about who was calling the shots during recent meetings about JP Morgan’s fines- Jamie Dimon or the Attorney General of the United States.

Cops aren’t the most financially sophisticated bunch so it’s hard if not impossible to fight all of this let alone understand it. That might be why Miami cops have seen 20 percent reductions in compensation while Mitt Romney’s net worth increased by the same amount in the first eight months of 2013 alone.

And that’s where Matt Taibbi comes in. He’s funny and makes things a little easier for folks that didn’t graduate from the Harvard Business School to understand. Largely it’s just a matter of cutting through the bullshit language used by the folks that want to take your money.

When you hear brands like “entitlement reform,” “pension reform,” you can just tune out – you’re being lied to.

Taibbi on the other hand is a straight shooter and uses language that confirms it:

“Here’s what this game comes down to. Politicians run for office, promising to deliver law and order, safe and clean streets, and good schools. Then they get elected, and instead of paying for the cops, garbagemen, teachers and firefighters they only just 10 minutes ago promised voters, they intercept taxpayer money allocated for those workers and blow it on other stuff. It’s the governmental equivalent of stealing from your kids’ college fund to buy lap dances. In Rhode Island, some cities have underfunded pensions for decades. In certain years zero required dollars were contributed to the municipal pension fund. “We’d be fine if they had made all of their contributions,” says Stephen T. Day, retired president of the Providence firefighters union. “Instead, after they took all that money, they’re saying we’re broke. Are you fucking kidding me?”

Apologies to the delicate flowers that have a tough time with cursing, but if there was ever a time to curse it’s now.

If you haven’t read Taibbi’s recent article entitled “Looting the Pensions,” don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for you when your retirement money gets stolen – again. And if you want the crash course on the financial class read his excellent book Griftopia.

Hopefully a few people will be enticed by some excerpts and actually read the thing. It’s one thing to be ignorant when there’s no good information with which to educate one’s self. But Taibbi’s got the thing sewn up with research, excellent writing and moral authority so there’s no excuse to remain in the dark as to what’s happening to your money. Hopefully the focus this time around pressure will be on the players –  Wall St. Hedge Funds and billionaire social engineers as opposed to the poor dupes that they hustled.

Taibbi writes: “Union leaders all over the country have started to figure out the perils of hiring a bunch of overpriced Wall Street wizards to manage the public’s money. Among other things, investing with hedge funds is infinitely more expensive than investing with simple index funds. On Wall Street and in the investment world, the management price is measured in something called basis points, a basis point equaling one hundredth of one percent. So a state like Rhode Island, which is paying a two percent fee to hedge funds, is said to be paying an upfront fee of 200 basis points.

How much does it cost to invest public money in a simple index fund? “We’ve paid as little as .875 of a basis point,” says William Atwood, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Investment. “At most, five basis points.”

So not only is the ruling financial class selling pension funds garbage, they charge them an arm and a leg for the service. This is where Taibbi’s brilliance really shines.

So when you invest your pension money in hedge funds, you might be paying a hundred times the cost or more, you might be underperforming the market, you may be supporting political movements against you, and you often have to pay what effectively is a bribe just for the privilege of hiring your crappy overpaid money manager in the first place. What’s not to like about that? Who

The Rolling Stone article is free online and perhaps it’s most valuable service is in identifying one of the new kids on the block looking to take your money – John Arnold. This kid’s a real winner. He’s one of those caring souls so worried about future generations of Americans that he’s willing to make tough choices about your retirement. It’s just a coincidence that those tough choices will make him even richer and the working class even poorer.

Taibbi writes: “In 2011, Pew began to align itself with a figure who was decidedly neither centrist nor nonpartisan: 39-year-old John Arnold, whom CNN/Money described (erroneously) as the “second-youngest self-made billionaire in America,” after Mark Zuckerberg. Though similar in wealth and youth, Arnold presented the stylistic opposite of Zuckerberg’s signature nerd chic: He’s a lipless, eager little jerk with the jug-eared face of a Division III women’s basketball coach, exactly what you’d expect a former Enron commodities trader to look like. Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning documentary “The Smartest Guys in the Room” and remembers those tapes of Enron traders cackling about rigging energy prices on “Grandma Millie” and jamming electricity rates “right up her ass for fucking $250 a megawatt hour” will have a sense of exactly what Arnold’s work environment was like.”

So here we have a situation where an Enron hustler, in league with massive and anti-worker outfits like the Pew Charitable Trusts is funding ballot initiatives to kill the very pensions people like him suckered in the first place. The really sick part is not only is it working, no one’s even talking about it. You know a society is in real trouble when individuals who will soon rely on a fixed income can’t be bothered to find out why they might have to sign on as a greeter at Walmart at age 72.

Sometimes maybe it’s a good idea to put last things first. With that in mind here’s the last paragraph of the Taibbi article: “Now, though, states all over the country are claiming they not only need to abrogate legally binding contracts with state workers but also should seize retirement money from widows to finance years of illegal loans, giant fees to billionaires like Dan Loeb and billions in tax breaks to the Curt Schillings of the world. It ain’t right. If someone has to tighten a belt or two, let’s start there. If we’ve still got a problem after squaring those assholes away, that’s something that can be discussed. But asking cops, firefighters and teachers to take the first hit for a crisis caused by reckless pols and thieves on Wall Street is low, even by American standards.”

One thing you can never say is that you haven’t been told. Ignore Matt Taibbi at your peril.

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