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Jim Hightower - Sniffing the ethical rot coming from Wall Street

Not too many years ago, any news story about bonus money would've been about some 20-year-old baseball player — an up-and-coming superstar getting $100,000 or so on top of his salary as an extra incentive to join the Yankees, Giants, Red Sox or whatever team. Sportswriters dubbed them: "Bonus Babies."

How quaint. These days, stories about bonus money don't elicit cheers, for they feature some of society's least admirable people: Wall Street bankers. Far from superstars, they can be subpar performers or even what amounts to crime syndicate bosses overseeing everything from simple fraud to laundering money for drug cartels. Yet, in the first part of each year, we witness this cluster of greedmeisters quaffing champagne, laughing uproariously and shouting, "It's bonus time, baby!"

This year, even though the Wall Street bosses have presided over a 30 percent drop in their banks' profits, they've extracted a 15 percent raise in overall bonus money, totaling a ridiculous $27 billion. That averages out to $165,000 in extra pay to each Wall Street banker. But averages deceive, for thousands of lower-level bankers are given a dab, while those up in the executive suites make off with the bulk of the bonus heist.

Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup, for example, didn't just grab a 15 percent increase in bonus pay, but nearly three times that. His total haul was $16 million. Then there's Jamie Dimon, boss of JPMorgan Chase. He had a really terrible year in 2013, forcing his shareholders to shell out some $22 billion in penalties for tallying up a long list of illegalities. But that didn't stop Jamie from taking a 74 percent hike in bonus money this year — he pulled in a cool $18.5 million.

In a time when the 90 percent majority of Americans see their income falling, you'd think Wall Street might show a bit of modesty.

But, instead, they choose to show us just how much Wall Street crime really does pay.
Let's review the rap sheet of Wall Street banks: Defrauding investors, cheating homeowners, forgery, rigging markets, tax evasion, credit card ripoffs ... and so sickeningly much more.

At last, though, some of the cops on the bank beat seem to be having regulatory epiphanies. The New York Times reports that some financial overseers are questioning "whether such misdeeds are not the work of a few bad actors, but rather a flaw that runs through the fabric of the banking industry. ... Regulators are starting to ask: Is there something rotten in bank culture?"

Really? Where've they been?

Millions of everyday Americans had no problem sniffing out that rot back in 2007 at the start of the Wall Street collapse and nauseating bailout. Imagine how pleased they are that it took only seven years for the stench of bank rot to reach the tender nostrils of authorities. Still, even sloooww progress is progress.

Both the head of the New York Fed and the Comptroller of the Currency are at least grasping one basic reality, namely that the tightened regulations enacted to deal with the "too big to fail" issue do nothing about the fundamental ethical collapse among America's big bankers. The problem is that, again and again, Wall Street's culture of greed is rewarded — bank bosses preside over gross illegalities, are not punished, pocket multimillion-dollar bonuses despite their shoddy ethics and blithely proceed to the next scandal.

More restraint on bank processes miss a core fact: Banks don't engage in wrongdoing; bankers do. As Comptroller Tom Curry says, the approach to this problem is not to call in more lawyers, "It is more like a priest-penitent relationship."

Public shaming can be useful, but it should include actual punishment of the top bosses — take away their bonuses, fire them and prosecute them!

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 08:39

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Hard for small, independent alcohol & drug counselors to compete

To The Daily Sun,

The state of N.H., as we know, is in crisis due to drug addiction and the social consequences, never enough money. A 10-year-long endeavor to get closer to intervention directly in the community through a continuum of care has recently come to fruition and Master Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselors (MLADCS) like me need to be vastly and expensively qualified to do it. OUR initial investment
I am one of dozens of independent outpatient MLADC providers who are set up to make the plan whole. With privatization of what once were mostly state provided services comes competition. NOW here is the important part. My colleagues are also my competitors.
Those close by bigger competitors, Nathan Brody Program, Horizons Counseling, BIG national chain-model drug and alcohol treatment programs like Phoenix House have money, funding, staff and a zillion resources at their disposal. And NOT UNLIKE Red Lobster Restaurants, for instance, buying up privately owned Maine seafood restaurants, I am not able to compete and may not survive! It has already started.
So here is the part that is important. It can be frustrating when I see those who run the old dinosaur treatment programs getting periodic FREE exposure complete with photos and kudos while I am forking out several thousand dollars yearly for advertising with the SAME papers BUT I CAN'T get a return call, or even an acknowledgement of a letter to editor!
The new system of treatment in the community overall all IS A BIG STORY! That may bring hope to those who are losing loved ones daily because of a proliferating drug spread UNLIKE anything since the post Civil War era of MORPHINE soldier sickness that killed 50,000 civil war veterans AFTER 1865, when the war had already ended!
PLEASE. All I ask is a fair shake in terms of getting my message out. I haven't seen a real PAID for ad in The Sun or the other paper from Horizons, Nathan Brody, Plymouth House, Phoenix House, Farnum Center, Webster Place,etc. There's money there from state and fed and they are scooping. They have staff at the state, they set up trainings and charge people like myself and MLADCs to take the trainings, or we can not renew our licenses. Those who own and/or run the training centers are on the STATE regularity board that sets policy as to how much training, by whom and when etc. is required. That is just a ice berg tip.
Michael Tensel, MS-MLADC

A&D Recovery Counseling



Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 April 2014 10:04

Hits: 259

Stop 'repurposing' of highway funds & then see if we need more

To The Daily Sun,

This is in response to Nick Vazzana's letter in the April 9th Sun:

While I agree with some of the points he brings up about the need for repairing/upgrading our roads, I do not think increasing the gas tax is the first step that should be taken. Instead, we should be focusing upon the unconstitutional use of highway funds for purposes other than those mandated by the state Constitution (Part II, Article 6-a) which states:

"[Use of Certain Revenues Restricted to Highways.] All revenue in excess of the necessary cost of collection and administration accruing to the state from registration fees, operators' licenses, gasoline road tolls or any other special charges or taxes with respect to the operation of motor vehicles or the sale or consumption of motor vehicle fuels shall be appropriated and used exclusively for the construction, reconstruction and maintenance of public highways within this state, including the supervision of traffic thereon and payment of the interest and principal of obligations incurred for said purposes; and no part of such revenues shall, by transfer of funds or otherwise, be diverted to any other purpose whatsoever."

At one point during the John Lynch's administration, up to a third of the monies in the Highway Fund were being siphoned off to pay for things having absolutely no connection to maintaining, building, or patrolling our state's roads, or enforcement of various traffic and transportation laws and regulations. Instead funds were repurposed to Health and Human Services, Family Court, and other state functions that could in no way, shape, or form be construed to be part of maintenance, construction, patrolling, or enforcing the laws and regulations that cover our highways. Gov. Lynch rightly labeled such illegal repurposing as "the legislature using the Highway Fund as an ATM."

Perhaps we should audit where the money from the Highway Fund has been spent, stop the misuse of those funds for purposes not allowed under the state Constitution, and then see if there's still a need to raise the gas tax. Without fixing the problem beforehand, the additional revenues anticipated from raising the gas tax may end up going anywhere but for the purposes intended. If it is found that the abuse has stopped, has not recurred, and there are indeed insufficient funds needed to repair and upgrade our roads and highways, then by all means I can support (reluctantly) an increase in the gas taxes. (Yes, I am loath to increasing taxes. Call it my stubborn Yankee frugality kicking in.)

Dale Channing Eddy


Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 April 2014 09:58

Hits: 360

I found good health insurance on N.H. Marketplace for $90 a month

To The Daily Sun,

Growing up I was lucky to always have health insurance, but following a divorce, I learned I was going to lose my coverage and wouldn't be able to get it through my employer. For the first time in my life I was going to be uninsured, and even though I'm a healthy 25-year-old woman, I knew I needed to get covered in case anything happened.

In January, I went to coveringnewhampshire.org to shop for a plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace. I have a good job as a waitress in the Lakes Region, but I have a budget and was worried about the cost. I was budgeting $250 a month for a decent plan, but was happy to find that the "silver" plan cost $90 a month. That's what I spend on gas in a month. It was definitely worth $90 for me to have the peace of mind you get with health insurance.

I was also surprised at how easy it was to sign up. In about 30 minutes I was enrolled in a plan that offers all of the basics, like emergency room visits, prescription drugs and doctor visits. If you have time to sit down and watch your favorite show, you have time to sign up for health care.

I am young and just starting out in life. Facing huge medical bills on top of my student loan debt seemed too risky to me. I feel a lot better knowing that I won't have thousands of dollars in medical expenses thrown at me if I slip on ice in my driveway or get into a car accident. Going without health insurance is something you just can't afford.

Michelle Stanyan


Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 April 2014 10:02

Hits: 116

Senior Citizens should really want Obamacare to be successful

To The Daily Sun,

On Page 18 of the AARP Bulletin for March 2014 is a very good article on Medicare. As seniors, we know that AARP is a very powerful advocate for us. I recommend that you read the article for yourself.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, has language that protects guaranteed benefits and "the good news for Medicare recipients is new protections and benefits in the health law that strengthens Medicare and give more coverage" says Nancy LeaMond, an officer for AARP.

That the ACA cut Medicare by $716 billion is taken out of context and has been used in advertisements for political gain. It is not like taking $716 billion out of a bank account as implied in the ads. The ads are deliberately misleading.

The ACA does a great deal for seniors. People in the "doughnut hole" have saved over $8 billion since 2010.

The Part A trust fund insurance has been extended to 2026. The medical profession is under pressure from the ACA to improve efficiency and put some controls on costs.

It is my opinion that seniors should really want the Affordable Care Act to be successful. It has a positive impact on Medicare for both present and future recipients. Seniors should also be wary of politicians who advocate for its repel without explaining how they would guarantee benefits for Medicare.

Paul Bonneville

Lochmere (Tilton)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 April 2014 09:21

Hits: 225

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