Stephen Schwarzman. (World Economic Forum/Remy Steinegger, CC 2.0.)
This story originally appeared at Truthdig. Robert Scheer is the author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books).
Where is the Occupy movement now that the depravity of the super rich is on full display?
The suddenly increased national debt is primarily the result of a deep recession caused by the top bankers and hedge fund hustlers of Wall Street, saved from their folly by massive and costly federal intervention. The result has been a season of obscene profit for them, while the rest of the nation has floundered. But instead of making the rich pay, ordinary citizens will be visited with job furloughs and a savaging of public services that often are lifesaving.
Consider two stories this week that make Karl Marx look prescient: one, in The Wall Street Journal, concerns the payout of $1 billion in bonuses to nine private equity executives; the other, under a New York Times headline, states that the jobless recovery has been a boondoggle for corporate profits. “Recovery in US Is Lifting Profits, but Not Adding Jobs,” the headline reads, by way of explaining why the stock market is nearing its unprecedented high while the unemployment picture remains so dismally bleak.
But whenever a politician dares to hold those “fat cats” accountable, as Barack Obama once did, he or she is branded by apologists for the super-rich as a socialist engaging in class warfare. The outrage of the entitled as opposed to the despair of the dispossessed is the cultural norm, as evidenced by Stephen Schwarzman, one of the more egregious of those private equity billionaires.
What is truly outrageous about Schwarzman is not the $213.3 million he got last year from Blackstone, the private equity company where he has long been the CEO. Heck, he “earned” that much the previous year and has been raking it in since he co-founded the company back in 1985. What is startling, and it goes to the hubris of America’s most wealthy at the heart of the current sequester impasse, is that he thinks the more than $1 billion he and eight other private equity executives got in compensation last year should continue to be taxed at the “carried interest” rate of 15 percent, rather than the 35 percent reserved for ordinary income.
When President Obama first threatened to end that weird tax break for the top strata of the super rich back in 2010, it sent Schwarzman into a tizzy, complaining “It’s a war.… It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” At the time, Schwarzman had accumulated a fortune of $4.7 billion—now a cool $2 billion more, according to Forbes—hardly the fate of those occupied by Hitler.