The Flight to $28,300,000 Chairs

So how is our overclass faring in this Third Depression? Per today’s New York Times:

“There’s still plenty of money,” said John Keith Russell, a dealer in Westchester County, N.Y., who specializes in Shaker goods and is president of the 100-member, invitation-only Antique Dealers’ Association of America. “We obviously have seen a slowing in the market, but we have not noticed any weakness in the highest end of the market. The commitment by collectors is still as aggressive as it was two years ago.”

Wealthy buyers are still attending prestigious events like the Winter Antiques Show in Manhattan and making major purchases, said Mr. Russell. He cited a recent buyer from Philadelphia who said she had felt uneasy about investing in real estate or stocks but purchased two significant pieces of furniture. High-end antiques, dealers like to assert, tend to hold their value and can sometimes appreciate enormously over time.

28mchairThis ugly-ass armchair here is apparently one example of the entrepreneurial stratum’s current sense of where the world’s still-abundant economic surplus might be best utilized at this late date in history. It just sold to an anonymous buyer for $28.3 million.

Louis XVI would have heartily approved. Now, all we need is a few sans-culottes….

Keep This Staff!

If nothing else, this, corporate capitalism’s Third Great Depression, is tipping the overclass hand in some interesting ways.

The latest is this letter from the alleged overseer of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rackets, in which we get to see how the executive faction of the investing class tries to justify the salary-based part of its immoral and egregiously outdated appropriation of society’s surplus wealth.

Compare and contrast what bosses say about ordinary employees and what this ass-clown writes about paying $159 million in bonuses to the “managers” of a crashed enterprise:

“It is not realistic to expect that experienced and highly skilled employees wil indefinitely continue to work as hard as they have if we do not provide reasonable incentives to perform…

roflmfao

Meanwhile, here’s my idea of the only staff they ought to be keeping:

flip_off_baby

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Notes from the Economic Memory Hole

As this New Depression unfolds, one fascinating and important thing to watch is the degree to which our overclass believes its own bullshit, despite the many reasons — not least being what you’d think would be the most obvious lessons of not-distant history — it should know better.

The steaming heap that weighs perhaps most heavily on the Business Brain is its insistence that the rich can never be too rich, that excessive wealth accumulation by a small class of major investors can never be a problem, that workers can be over-exploited.

Michal Kelecki and John Maynard Keynes dismantled the intellectual form of this childish denial more than seven decades ago.

“Michal and John who?,” feign John Q. Sharehold III and President Hopington and his experts today.

For an excellent little piece of observation on the continuing reign of “supply-side” dogma, see Al Schumann’s excellent post on today’s SMBIVA.

Remember When…

…credit card and car-loan interest payments were, like houses, tax-deductible?

From Wikianswers:

On Oct. 22, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Reagan called the 829-page, 33-pound bill “the most sweeping overhaul of the tax code in our nation’s history.”

The new code gradually phased out all deductions for interest paid on car loans, charge-account purchases, vacations and anything else that fell under what the law termed “consumer loans.”

This is a pretty obvious yardstick for assessing President Obama and his (and his party’s) efforts to rescue and ram through the overclass’s pet Chicago-school/supply-side theory of how to fix a Depression.

Obamanocchio: “Papa, I Want to be a Real Banker-Boy”

The proof that Brand Obama is merely a re-labeling of Brand Clinton and Brand Reagan could hardly be coming harder and faster.

The latest revelation is the new-and-not-improved economic give-away, which is as venal as it is hopelessly, laughably, moronically, decrepitly ill-targeted.

The great Doug Henwood puts it this way:

They’re worse than I expected, and I wasn’t expecting much in the first place (see: Obamamania, a febrile disease).

[I]t looks like the Treasury and the Fed will pump up some $250-500 billion to help hedge funds buy bad assets – with the FDIC guaranteeing the buyers against losses.  In internal administration battles, Geithner “successfully fought against” stricter rules on executive pay, and beat back the attempts to replace top maangement.

Of course, to say that Geithner won these battles is to say that Obama agreed with him. Once again, the embodiment of hope and change went with the status quo when he didn’t really have to. There would have been little political price to pay for putting the screws to the banksters.

This is looking more and more like Japan’s disastrous indulgence of their “zombie banks” in the 1990s than Sweden’s successful bailout, the model for the “nationalize them and clear the decks” approach. Instead of a few rough years, we’re likely to get a miserable decade.

For what it’s worth, my own view is this:

The problem is that making new loans is not only not the right answer, it’s not even possible. The Reagan Revolution /Great Restoration/New Democrats strategy of relying on credit expansion to fill the demand hole caused by heightened fucking of the working class is now at its final — and completely logical — end.  Either we start to reverse the basic class-fuck from above, or this depression continues to deepen.

Meanwhile, it’s important to ask:  What’s the dream outcome of what’s being attempted by Obama?  Another six month round of credit card balance transfers and fever-brained real estate bidding wars?  Based on what underlying new real production and income?

Ah, Love Those Market Reforms…

Remember “welfare reform?”  You know, the capitalist’s wet dream it took a Democratic Party regime to deliver?

Guess what?  Yep:

WASHINGTON — Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.

The trends, based on an analysis of new state data collected by The New York Times, raise questions about how well a revamped welfare system with great state discretion is responding to growing hardships.

Michigan cut its welfare rolls 13 percent, though it was one of two states whose October unemployment rate topped 9 percent. Rhode Island, the other, had the nation’s largest welfare decline, 17 percent.

Of the 12 states where joblessness grew most rapidly, eight reduced or kept constant the number of people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the main cash welfare program for families with children. Nationally, for the 12 months ending October 2008, the rolls inched up a fraction of 1 percent.

The deepening recession offers a fresh challenge to the program, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 amid bitter protest and became one of the most closely watched social experiments in modern memory.

The program, which mostly serves single mothers, ended a 60-year-old entitlement to cash aid, replacing it with time limits and work requirements, and giving states latitude to discourage people from joining the welfare rolls. While it was widely praised in the boom years that followed, skeptics warned it would fail the needy when times turned tough.

Makes one eager for the coming Democrat-mandated glories like calling still more semantic tricks “health care reform,” including the open possibility of making it illegal to not purchase private “health insurance,” and “finally” getting down to “reforming” the utterly functional, distinctively non-broken (except for the regressiveness of its dedicated tax) Social Security system, doesn’t it?