Bankers Have a License to Swindle

Please permit me to take a small exception to something written by Jim Hightower in the 8/15/16 TPP. On page 3, he describes how bankers get away with swindling the public because the banks pay for the fine, not the bankers.

This is fine as far as it goes, but does not quite capture the reality, which is that the banks don’t actually pay the fine either — or at least not all of it. What happens is that the public (you know, those gullible suckers so easily gypped) pays most of the fine.

In the past eight years, many banks (actually stock brokers who have gotten themselves the phony label of “bank” so they can be bailed out by government) have been assessed hundreds of billions of dollars in fines for market atrocities, but they actually pay only about half to two-thirds of such fine with their own money. Such “settlements” are almost always written off as business expense, for which they get a full tax deduction, and this is actually paid by the taxpayers.

That is why they keep doing it, and why they are so fanatical about cutting taxes on themselves, and why the are so aggressive about lobbying politicians to do them favors. It pays very well in terms of multi-million-dollar bonuses for executives, all of them (not just the $27 million for the CEO).

Taxpayers pay them to swindle the public. They also get the benefit of nolo contendere, i.e., they don’t even have to plead guilty (it would tarnish their reputation).

This travesty was made possible because the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed under the previous Clinton administration, with the help of Dick Armey and Larry Summers, et al. Of course, it could never happen again, could it?

Harvey Stoneburner
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Solar Power

Jill Richardson’s article, “Is Solar Energy Really too Expensive?” [9/1/16 TPP], provided salient points about the cost of solar energy and the oppositions to it by some energy utilities and consumer groups. I am not writing to contest anything she wrote. I would like add some light to the shady scene.

Today, when most people talk about solar energy they usually mean solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which is the technology that directly converts sunlight to electricity. Less popular is the solar thermal system which converts sunlight to heat, typically for heating water. This heated water can be immediately used or stored in a hot water tank for use later. Such a system requires no interconnection with the electric utility, special electric metering requirements, or customer-utility contracts, and thus, gives the homeowner one way around the policies of solar-sour utilities and consumer groups.

Overall, the US is poised to install 16 gigawatts of solar PV in 2016, more than double last year’s record of 7.5 gigawatts, and the 10th consecutive quarter in which more than one gigawatt of solar PV was installed in the US. Yes, three-quarters of this year’s installed capacity will be utility-scale systems, but we are slowly moving to more renewable energy, which is a good and necessary thing in light of the pollution and climate change issues. The overpriced Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in central California, the last commercially operating plant in that state, is poised to be shut down sometime in the ’20s. Negotiations are now underway with the state’s public utility service agency to ensure before shutdown that the plant’s lost energy capacity is made up by new energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems instead of new generation from fossil fuel plants. The utility that owns this nuclear plant has already agreed to the plan.

Yes, the cost of solar systems (PV or thermal) can be impossible for some people to afford. However, too many people think, or perhaps are led into thinking by some solar representatives, that they need a system that supplies the majority, if not all, of their household electricity or hot water energy needs. But these systems are modular, so they can also be sized to accommodate one’s financial capacity. Some solar companies offer lease programs, reducing or eliminating the initial investment for an additional charge on the electricity bill. If this is still out of the question, some electric utilities offer programs that allow customers to buy a certain percentage of their electricity from renewably generated sources at a slightly increased price, giving both the homeowner and renter one way to invest in a better tomorrow. There are also community solar PV projects in some utility districts which allow people with homes or property that cannot accept such a system for whatever reason to buy into a project and receive energy credits on their electric bill. There is no reason such an arrangement couldn’t work for a renter too.

I hope readers will be inclined to explore the many options for reducing their consumption of fossil fuels.

Gian Pauletto
Rutland, Vt.

Do Republicans Read the Bible They Cite?

For all our talk and communication/media, commentators and prognosticators, nothing beats what the Bible says about why countries fail. After watching and listening to Republicans since about 1952, I can say that they have brought us to the BIble, all right. But I doubt that they would believe someone besides them — who seem to think that they are the only godly people on the planet — could point these references out to them — and mean them as needing to listen to these scriptures.

Republicans are supposed to unite around a man like Trump? As if he’s a normal Republican? That he reflects who they are? Whether he does or not, the fact that they are willing to continue down this path only reveals the depth of their outrageous, reckless, catastrophic delusions.

Cheryl Lovely
Presque Isle, Maine

Bring On Over-Stimulation

I wanted to comment on Dean Baker’s article Clinton, Trump and Budget-Busting Tax Cuts [9/1/16 TPP].

At first I was scared at the mention of Larry Summers as an economist. I was relieved that it was mentioned that tax cuts for the middle and lower income people result in more money poured back into the economy. But then he opined that this level of spending would over-stimulate the economy leading to higher interest rates and inflation.

Well, that is exactly what we need. Interest rates down in the cellar are hurting everyone who is trying to make ends meet. Savings are basically non-existent and investments in low-risk vehicles, such as bonds don’t fill the bill. All the pension funds can’t fulfill their commitments, because the projected increase of value just isn’t there with prudent, conservative investments. Just to get back to “the good old days,” people have to invest in stocks, which require considerable skill and luck to make the increases that more conservative investments made, just a few years ago.

Low and negative interest rates cause financial institutions to act differently by using money for buy-backs and basically “not lending” it out. My feeling is that the cure is worse than the disease being addressed.

Barrie Eichhorn
West Chester, Pa.

Do Progressives Want a Movement?

TPP subscribers are the last people needing high doses of “Shut Up And Fear Trump” blaring from the DNC, national media and from disturbing public appearances by G.W. Bush.

It’s one thing to be selectively pragmatic in supporting Clinton, and quite another to abandon the pragmatic strategy of vociferous support for the progressive Green Party in non-swing states in order to actually build the kind of movement required to hold a Clinton administration accountable …

Decades of “democratic” governments have been actively diminishing civil rights and liberties, divesting from working families and our communities, investing in war, banks and prisons instead of a green economy, doing nothing to slow the corruption behind extreme income disparity despite numbers of destitute, homelessness and unemployed youths not seen since the 1930’s. The historic consequences are indisputable; 80% of potential voters abstained in the 2016 presidential primaries emboldening fascist groups and propelling disastrous candidates like Bush and Trump into high office. Nader, Sanders and Stein are hardly to blame for offering progressive alternatives, nevertheless, TPP is publishing stale letters reaching back 16 years to blame Nader for the Bush dynasty, and to condemn the Green Party, (Nolan O’Brian 8/15/16, and David Riesman, 9/1/16).

Demeaning Sanders’ supporters as “Bernicrats” and “Bernie or Busters” (Editorial, 9/1/16 TPP), is a problematic approach to inspiring a movement … as is forcing subscribers to seek refuge in TPP’s back pages with Nader and Rall waiting for “the left” to seize this pragmatic opportunity to actually build toward enduring social, economic and environmental change.

George Clark
Eureka, Calif.

Trump’s Fake Purple Heart

The GOP nominee for POTUS has insulted a wide swath of Americans and foreigners in order to play to his radical base and he’s been alarmingly successful.

As someone who was awarded the Military Purple Heart in North Korea in 1952, I felt personally insulted when this person accepted a Purple Heart from a supporter and responded, in a lighthearted manner, by saying that he always wanted a Purple Heart. Well, if this candidate had not  dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, it is very possible that he could have legitimately earned a Purple Heart, along with 200,000 Americans that were killed or wounded during that controversial war.

This inept, divisive, truly dangerous candidate should not and must not be elected to represent our nation.

Skip Hannon
Bradenton, Fla.

Democrats are Partially to Blame

I would like to commend Hal Crowther for his sketch of Donald Trump [9/1/16 TPP]. I have been a subscriber to The Progressive Populist since the beginning, and in the early days (when he contributed more frequently) I would sometimes call the editorial office and ask why room wasn’t found for Crowther’s column if he didn’t appear in the latest issue (I invariably found out that he hadn’t sent an article in for that edition).

However, there is one oversight in Crowther’s column on Trump. Trump’s candidacy would not be viable if the national Democratic Party had not abandoned America’s working class for the campaign contributions of Wall Street. Sen. Edward Kennedy once said, “We already have one Republican Party and we don’t need two.” It seems that Sen. Kennedy’s nightmare has come true.

Paul Schwietering
Cincinnati, Ohio


Donald Trump and some of his supporters appear to want voters to believe that Hillary Clinton is seriously ill.  However, it appears that Mr. Trump is suffering from a rare serious politically terminal mental disease, trumphitis.

The apparent symptoms include lying, denigrating persons based on race and/or religion, flip-flopping on major issues such as immigration, calling persons who disagree with him names, and expressing hatred towards members of media he dislikes.

There is a cure — an overwhelming defeat forcing a permanent political retirement. A possible treatment would be for Sen. Ted Cruz to utilize the experience he gained from his filibuster and refer Mr. Trump to Dr. Seuss.

Edward L. Koven
Highland Park, Ill.

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2016


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