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Tough Times

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Gilded Age Crime: Poor Go Homeless, Wealthy Get Bailouts

Driving to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, the route goes through poor neighborhoods where house after house have signs: For Sale.

What this really means is: foreclosed.

Listening to Jimmy Cramer yell and scream on CNBC about how "there is so much pain out there," he was not referring to underpaid American troops, or homeless American poor, but the banks, hedge funds and private equity deal-makers whose hundreds of millions of dollars have been reduced to hundreds of millions of dollars.

In fact, the great pain suffered on Wall Street is this: At the market close this past Thursday, the Dow Jones average was up 3 percent, down from an all-time record high only several weeks ago.

These are tough times for the wealthy.

What has happened during the Bush years, with the Bush ethic of "grab all you can" greed, is the stench of a new Gilded Age that is morally disgraceful, economically unsustainable and politically deadly for Republicans if the Democrats speak clearly against this.

Hillary would probably argue that the wealthy, like special-interest lobbyists, are just plan old Americans who never influence government with their money. Some in Congress will have to interrupt their fundraisers and offend their campaign contributors. For most Democrats, this is the issue of a lifetime, the stuff of which landslides are made of.

Is it right that American troops are told we can't afford to give them body armor and protected vehicles, so they die preventable deaths, while the highest-income 1 percent receive huge tax cuts?

Is it right that the new racket on Wall Street is that banks make bad loans, sell them to hedge funds and private equity firms, many of whom are virtually unregulated and untaxed, who then complain about their pain after they foreclose on average Americans for falling a little behind their payments?

It is good that today the Fed cut the prime by 50 points, but it is bad, and terribly wrong and unjust, that in the last week the Fed has essentially used Americans' money to bail out the wealthy who made the profits, while doing zero for the foreclosed and homeless.

When the banks, hedge funds and private equity firms make bad deals, they keep the personal profits, while the corporate profits are protected by bailouts. Meanwhile, when the average Americans in the middle class, or the poor, fall a little behind, they get the boot, they lose their jobs, they are thrown into the street without homes and often without food.

Erin Burnett, the new glamor star at CNBC, says with a sneer that Americans are wrong to believe they have any right to a home.

In Ms. Burnett's world, the people have no right to a home, but the hedge funds have a right to the bailout. When things go bad, the average Americans get the boot, while the upper class gets the loot, paid for by the taxpayer, helping only the few.

With American troops getting killed because of a lack of armor we can't afford to give them, paying loan shark rates for desperation loans because of fair wages we don't pay them, with middle America feeling the squeeze because of the greed, and poor Americans going hungry and homeless, Jimmy Cramer cries out against the pain at the top. Erin Burnett sneers at the dream of a home, and the Gilded Age stars tell The New York Times they have more money, because they are superior.

Why are so many of these superior specimens of humankind the first in line for the bailout, paid for by those they believe inferior?

The Gilded Age ends on Jan. 20, 2009, but until then, the bailouts will flow for the few, while the pain will be felt by the many.

This is another reason the world will rejoice when the age of Bush ends, and the age of reform begins, after the American people speak in November 2008.

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