Jim Hightower on Wall Street

bailout

Finding the money to fund higher education for all

Thursday, October 2, 2014   |   Posted by Jim Hightower

Question: Is making higher education available to every American more important to our national interest than letting Wall Street profiteers make a few more billions-of-dollars each year?

Answer: Of course. Yet, our political leaders – pushed by Wall Street lobbyists – have been making the opposite choice for years. As a result, banksters have loaded students down with a mountain of high-interest loans, rising from just over $2 billion a decade ago to nearly a trillion last year. Worse, the financiers – either banks or government lenders – have become the gatekeepers of advanced education, shutting out thousands of young people wanting to get ahead, but not able to hurdle the formidable financial barrier.

This is enormously costly to America – and completely unnecessary. The smart choice – as we learned from the GI Bill after World War II – would be to make college and professional training free. Universal access to higher education – ie, free access – produces a very high return on the public’s investment, while also producing widely-shared prosperity and a broadly educated citizenry.

Of course, an up-front investment in a smarter, more productive, more democratic civilization is pricey. So where do we get the money to do what America needs? Get it from where it went. Wall Street’s superrich speculators are now making millions of super-fast, robotic financial transactions per second, generating trillions of dollars a year for them – but producing nothing of real value for us, while distorting and endangering markets.

Put a tiny tax on each of those automated gambles by speculators, and more than enough money will come into the public coffers to free-up higher-ed for all. For information, check out United States Students Association: www.usstudents.org.

“Why Have Student Loans At All? Let’s Get the Burdens of Debt off College Students’ Backs — And Make Wall St. Pick Up the Tab,” www.alternet.org, July 2, 2013.

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Wall Street sodbusters reap farm profits

Wednesday, October 1, 2014   |   Posted by Jim Hightower

We know from the childhood song that Old McDonald had a farm – but e-i-e-i-o – look who’s got his farm now!

It’s groups like American Farmland, Farmland Partners, and BlackRock. These aren’t dirt farmers wearing overalls and brogans, but Wall Street hucksters in Armani suits and Gucci loafers. The latest fast-buck fad for high-roller investment trusts, hedge funds, and venture capital speculators is “farming.” Not that these dude ranch dandies are actually plowing and planting. No, no – these are soft-hands people, buying up farmlands with billions of rich investors’ dollars, then tilling the tax laws and threshing the farmers who do the real cultivation.

For example, American Farmland Company – which owns 16 farms – is a combine of the largest real estate empire in New York City, two Florida sugar barons, a wealth management outfit, and the real estate brokerage arm of insurance giant Prudential. None of these nuveau sodbusters has a speck of dirt under their fingernails, but they’ve figured out how to work the land without touching it and still harvest a sweet profit. The founder of this scheme says “It’s like gold, but better, because there is this cash flow.”

Cash flow? Yes, farmers are charged rent to till the Wall Streeters’ land, then, the financiers get a prime cut of any profits from the corps that the farmers produce. Also, the combine is set up as a Real Estate Investment Trust, providing an enormous tax break for the Wall Street plowboys. And, of course, there’s the mega-pay the moneyed elites will reap when they convert their scheme into securities for sale on the stock exchange.

A few rich speculators get richer, farmers are turned into sharecrop laborers, and farms are switched to high-profit crops that require heavy pesticide dosages and soak up scarce water resources. Other than that, this is one hell of a deal.

 

 

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