Wednesday, February 18, 2015
In late 2013, an A.T.M. in Kiev started dispensing cash at seemingly random times of day. No one had put in a card or touched a button. Cameras showed that the piles of money had been swept up by customers who appeared lucky to be there at the right moment.
But when a Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, was called to Ukraine to investigate, it discovered that the errant machine was the least of the bank’s problems.
The bank’s internal computers, used by employees who process daily transfers and conduct bookkeeping, had been penetrated by malware that allowed cybercriminals to record their every move. The malicious software lurked for months, sending back video feeds and images that told a criminal group — including Russians, Chinese and Europeans — how the bank conducted its daily routines, according to the investigators.
Then the group impersonated bank officers, not only turning on various cash machines, but also transferring millions of dollars from banks in Russia, Japan, Switzerland, the United States and the Netherlands into dummy accounts set up in other countries. (see here)
To begin with the reports were talking about $300 million or even up to $900+ million, so watch this space as it's early days yet and will possibly spin on to lots more.
“the intruders in the bank thefts were enormously patient, placing surveillance software in the computers of system administrators and watching their moves for months. The evidence suggests this was not a nation state, but a specialized group of cybercriminals.”
Oh, what a brilliant scenario for a very enjoyable comedy film, except maybe not for the individuals who feature next. Let's move on to the people with money and power who have perversely redistributed the national wealth of the US.
Some in-your-face examples of inequality: (from here)
In the six years since the recession the stock market has risen by $8 trillion most of it going to the richest 10%. In 2013 alone it rose by $5 trillion. On average, each of us in the bottom 90% earned a dollar every time the market went up another billion. (Details here.)
The upper class is defined here as the top 10%, families with minimum wealth of $660,000 and minimum income somewhere between $114,000 and $140,000.
Social Security too expensive? Not in comparison to the flow of wealth to the upper class, many of whom, at the lower end of the 10%, may not consider themselves rich, but have still benefited. In the six years since the recession these 16 million families have increased their wealth by $4 trillion per year, which is more than four times the cost of Social Security.
Two Top Polluters, Four Welfare Kings, and a Long-Term Tax Avoider Took Enough National Wealth Last Year to Pay for ALL the School Lunch and Women/Infant Nutrition Programs - They are the seven individuals heading up Koch Industries, Walmart, and Berkshire Hathaway. In addition to their corporate profits, the seven moneymakers had personal investment gains that totaled $28 billion last year, about the same as the total cost for nutrition programs for over 40 million kids (Child Nutrition and WIC). They made even more the year before, and the year before that. Much of their new wealth was rolling in as nutrition programs were being CUT.
Then: Workers Paid 33 Cents, Corporations Paid a Dollar.
Now: Workers Pay 33 Cents, Corporations Pay 7 Cents.
Workers and their pensions get blamed for budget shortfalls. But relative to workers' payroll tax, corporate taxes have dropped from $1.00 to 7 cents since the 1950s. Meanwhile, corporate profits have reached record highs, more than doubling in just the past ten years.
The lawful thieves and robbers
Now, delving further into the questions of taxes and who pays what, here’s a question to ask New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie “Why is it in your state the top 1 percent of income earners pay state taxes at a rate that is on average 28 percent less than what middle-income earners pay?”
Then try a similar question of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who, like Christie, is considering a run for president in 2016. There the discrepancy is far worse – the top 1 percent only pay taxes at one-third the rate of the middle 20 percent of taxpayers.
In fact, the story is pretty much the same in conservative state after conservative state according to a set of studies released today by the Keystone Research Center and Good Jobs First, “Across all 50 states, the highest-income one percent pay a significantly lower percentage of their income in state and local taxes than those in the middle of the income distribution – an average of 5.4 versus 9.5 percent, respectively.”
The report points out that if the top 1 percent paid the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes as the do the middle 20 percent, states would collect an additional $88.5 billion per year. Extend that principle to the top 20 percent, so they are paying the same rate as the middle 20 percent, and states and localities would have an additional $200 billion in revenue.
(this from here)
Banksters and CEOs
This week has been filled with the enormity of the HSBC fraud/scandal//scam/thievery to the tune of who-knows-how-much in whatever currency. How many bankers have ended up with a term in jail? Recent events have shown that neither scandal nor thievery is any obstruction to millions of dollars in pay off. These events are so repetitious that they become boring. Who really remembers all the details and all the individuals? Who wants to?
There is column after column and programme after programme discussing the ins and outs and pointing to the guilty and offering reforms to clean up the uncleanable.
Let's face it, all along the line the system steals from the working class. It always has and always will. We don't need to discuss bankers' bonuses and corporations' tax bills and how much the wealthy have stashed away and what they do with all their money. But we do need to understand that the capitalist system itself, through its adherent individual capitalists, uses us to its own advantage through the wages system (and that includes the tax system) and the majority of the working class are complicit because they haven't understood that yet.
As the vast majority of the world's population we accept the necessity of work in order to produce the necessities of life for both ourselves and others, however the remuneration we require is not money as such but access to those necessities. Together we need the tools to organise a rational system that gives us ready access, wherever we are, to such things as social security and health care, utilities, food production and distribution in general. It can be achieved in the most efficient and effective way without the sham of a tendering process, without the hindrance of the profit motive each step of the way. The world belongs to us all. There is only one answer and it's quite simple. Abolish the system. Let's all think more of the impact of a world without money, a world of free access for everyone and just how much it can change our lives for the better.