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The Morning Grumpy – 5/8/12

8 May

All the news, views, and filtered excellence that’s fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Credit - Sarah Emerson @Society6

1. If you think there will be bank operations in the HSBC Tower in downtown Buffalo in 2014, I’ve got a new Peace Bridge to sell you. HSBC is slowly selling off operations and business units and there isn’t much left to keep them in Buffalo at this point. This is a big deal and the incremental reporting on these sell-offs seems to be tamping down the regional concern.

It looks like the mortgage service center in Depew will soon be closed.

The 172,630-square-foot building at Walden Avenue and Dick Road, which HSBC leases, has a total of about 1,000 employees, but about 320 of them work for other parts of the bank, supporting commercial and other lines of business that are not connected with the mortgage unit. Brazil said the bank does “intend to remain in that building for the time being,” but he wouldn’t say how long that may be or how long the lease is for.

As HSBC sells off business units, sheds employees, and relocates teams to various locations around the country, we’re quickly approaching a day when Buffalo’s largest office building will be nearly empty, possibly within two years. The giant suckhole you hear forming is the coming collapse of the downtown commercial real estate market accompanied by the massive hit to regional morale when the tallest building in the city goes dark.

Is anyone working on a plan? I’d tell you what the Mayor is doing about it, but I haven’t received a callback from anyone working in the administration for nearly 10 months. I’m sure he’s busy figuring out how to fuck up the outer harbor.

Is the council doing anything?  They’re still bickering over which kickboxer or turtle enthusiast will replace Mickey Kearns in the South District.

So, no.

2. The 1% are delusional.

Some unknown but alarming number of ultra-rich Americans are now basically totally delusional and completely divorced from reality. This is now an inescapable fact, confirmed by multiple media accounts of billionaire thought and an entire special issue of the New York Times Magazine.

Here’s a brief list of insane things that are apparently common knowledge among the billionaire class:

  • That President Obama and the Democratic Party have treated wealthy finance industry titans maliciously and unfairly.
  • That the fact that they are perversely wealthy and growing richer during a period of mass unemployment and staggering debt is a sign that the economy is functioning correctly.
  • That poor people, and not the finance industry, are responsible for the financial crisis and subsequent recession.
  • That the ultra-wealthy are wealthy because they are smarter and work harder than everybody else, and that they are resented for their success.
  • That the ultra-wealthy in general, and finance industry executives in particular, are the victims of widespread prejudice akin to that faced by ethnic minorities.

The most fascinating thing to me is that they are able to convince a sizable chunk of Republican America that these things are true.

3. Stephen King is filthy rich and he wants to be taxed more…damn it!

Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want — those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money — is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is.

I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that — sorry, kiddies-you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay — not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay — in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

Wow.

4. The House GOP introduces a budget to fix America. Holy shit, this thing is a doozy. The “Sequester Replacement Act” authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan slashes social programs while increasing defense spending. Do the Republicans know it’s an election year?

Fully one-fourth of the House GOP spending cuts come from programs directly benefiting the poor, such as Medicaid, food stamps, the Social Services Block Grant, and a child tax credit claimed by working immigrants. Federal workers would have to contribute an additional 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, while people whose incomes rise after receiving coverage subsidies under the new health care law would lose some or all of their benefits.

The budget-cutting drive is designed to head off a looming 10 percent, $55-billion budget cut set to strike the Pentagon on Jan. 1 because of the failure of last year’s deficit “supercommittee” to strike a deal. The Obama administration and lawmakers in both parties warn the reductions would harm readiness and weapons procurement, and reduce troop levels.

The House Appropriations Committee bill released Monday includes $519.2 billion for the fiscal 2013 base budget and $88.5 billion for Afghanistan and other counterterrorism activities. That’s $1.1 billion more than the current level and $3.1 billion more than Mr. Obama requested.

To recap, the Republicans drove the American economy to the brink of global collapse last summer during the debt ceiling negotiations, agreed to the Super-committee idea, submarined that effort, and now wish to take away Grandma’s Meals on Wheels program to fund Israeli missile programs and high altitude unmanned aerial vehicles?  The GOP plan would cut food stamps for 2 million people and reduce the same benefits for 44 million others. Nearly 300,000 school children would lose free school meals and hundreds of thousands could lose their Medicaid or CHIP coverage. GOP 2012! 

5. The media is bored with the #Occupy movement, which means we’ll be hearing a lot less about income inequality, the gender wage gap, corporate greed, corruption, and other inconvenient truths.

As a new report indicates, Occupy has been central to driving media stories about income inequality in America. Late last week, Radio Dispatch’s John Knefel compiled a report for media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which illustrates Occupy’s success: Media focus on the movement in the past half year, according to the report, has been almost directly proportional to the attention paid to income inequality and corporate greed by mainstream outlets. During peak media coverage of the movement last October, mentions of the term “income inequality” increased “fourfold.”

The movement helped set the tone for President Obama’s renewed focus on these issues as the re-election campaign ramped up and helped him demonstrate a semblance of a backbone when dealing with Republicans these last few months. However…ta

As mentions of “Occupy Wall Street” or “Occupy movement” waned in early 2012, so too have mentions of “income inequality” and, to an even greater extent, “corporate greed.” The trend is true for four leading papers (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times), news programs on the major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), cable (MSNBC, CNN, Fox News) and NPR, according to searches of the Nexis news media database. Google Trends data also indicates that from January to March, the phrases “income inequality” and “corporate greed” declined in volume of both news stories and searches.

The national media tells most of America what to be concerned with at any point in time. Once they pull the plug on the attention or outrage machine…*POOF* we no longer give a collective shit. Looking for followup stories on the BP Oil Spill? The Haiti earthquake? Japanese tsunami? Etc.? You’ll have to wait for the anniversary of the event for a quick look on the nightly news and maybe, if we’re lucky, an overwrought and emotional human interest piece on one of the morning shows.

Fact Of The Day: Scientologists warn that reading the Xenu story without proper authorization could cause pneumonia.

Quote Of The Day: “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” – My 3 Year Old Daughter, Josie

Video Of The Day: “Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars All Without a Flamewar: Crash Course World History #13” – Crash Course, A brilliant YouTube channel

Laugh Of The Day: “Muffins” – Bill Burr

Song Of The Day: “Cool Jerk” – The Capitols

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com