Big Oil is a Big Cheapskate to Charity

At the same time ExxonMobil's (XOM) record-breaking profits are making news, the company is running ads touting its philanthropic support for health and education programs in the U.S. and abroad. ExxonMobil's commercials were especially evident during the 2008 Summer Olympics, when 30- to 60-second spots costing hundreds of thousands of dollars attempted to convince viewers that the company's philanthropy is as deep and rich as its oil wells.

Unfortunately, such is not the case.

Annual donations by the Big Three oil companies as measured by a percent of pretax net income (the standard yardstick for gauging corporate philanthropy) are consistently below half the national average for businesses that make tax-deductible charitable contributions.

In 2007, these three oil giants donated a combined $348 million, far short of the $1 billion the companies would have contributed if they had simply given at a level equal to Corporate America's philanthropic midpoint, which is 8/10ths of 1%.

And that $348 million is a small fraction of the $27.9 billion in net income that the three companies earned just this last quarter!

[Excerpt of an article by Curt Weeden, BusinessWeek]


Foundations pinched by markets expect to give less

Nationwide, charitable foundations, which are heavily invested in the stock market, are wringing their hands over the economic downturn that has seen the market plunge more than 40 percent since last October.

As the assets go, so does giving.

The severity of the economic turmoil has foundation leaders uneasy about their ability to give, since they rely on healthy assets to hand out greater amounts of money.

"We've never seen this in our lifetime," said Monica Wroblewski, spokeswoman with the Council on Foundations, a nonprofit association in Arlington, Va. "Who knows what ramifications this will have?"

[Akron Beacon Journal]


U.S. Security Pact passes Iraq's parliament

After months of difficult talks between U.S. and Iraqi negotiators, Iraq's parliament on Thursday approved a security pact with the United States. 149 lawmakers of Iraq's 275 seat parliament passed the deal.

This means that troops will remain in Iraq until 2012.The agreement also sets June 30, 2009, as the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns. These dates are "set and fixed" and are "not subject to the circumstances on the ground," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

The pact curbs U.S. powers to arrest Iraqi citizens and conduct military operations, and is seen by the Iraqis as a way to safeguard Iraqi sovereignty. It gives Iraq authority over about 150,000 U.S. troops in the country.

Some Iraqis fear this could be the first step towards a permanent occupation. Right before the contentious parliamentary vote, the Iraqi parliament's biggest Sunni bloc said it wanted guarantees of a public referendum on a U.S. security pack.

Sunnis are also concerned their influence may wane once the Americans leave. Majority Shi'ite Iraq has a Shi'ite leadership and has good ties with neighboring Iran, a Shi'ite country.


Afghanistan demands timeline for end of military intervention

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan demanded at a meeting with a UN Security Council team that the international community set a "timeline" for ending military intervention in Afghanistan, his office said.

"If we don't have a clear idea of how long it will be, the Afghan government has no choice but to seek political solutions," Karzai's chief spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told AFP. seek a political solution to a Taliban-led insurgency.


Afghanistan: Have we learned nothing?

The United States of America is settling George Bush's scores with the "terrorists" trying to overthrow Hamid Karzai's corrupt government. 29 years ago, the Soviet Union was settling Leonid Brezhnev's scores with the "terrorists" trying to overthrow Barbrak Karmal's corrupt government.

Fast forward to 2001 – just seven years ago – and an American general told us of the imminent victory over the "terrorists" in the mountains, the all but conquered Taliban. The American general was pontificating at the big US airbase at Bagram. A Russian was likewise pontificating at the big Soviet airbase at Bagram [in the previous war with Afghanistan].

This is not déjà-vu. This is déjà double-vu. And it gets worse.

Stephen Tanner’s book Afghanistan: A Military History From Alexander The Great To The Fall Of The Taliban quotes General Roberts of Kandahar telling the British in 1880 that "the best thing to do is to leave it as much as possible to itself... I feel sure I am right when I say that the less the Afghans see of us, the less they will dislike us".

Memo to the Americans, the Brits, the Canadians and the rest of Humpty Dumpty's men. Read history.

[Excerpt of an article by Robert Fisk, The Independent]


America's Hidden War in Somalia

To glimpse America's secret war in Africa, you must bang with a rock on the iron gate of the prison in a remote port in northern Somalia. A sleepy guard will yank open a rusty deadbolt. Then, you ask to speak to an inmate named Mohamed Ali Isse, "The Man with the American Thing in His Leg."

That "thing" is a stainless steel surgical pin screwed into his bullet-shattered femur, courtesy, he says, of the U.S. Navy. How it got there — or more to the point, how Isse ended up in this crumbling, stone-walled hellhole at the uttermost end of the Earth—is a story that the U.S. government probably would prefer to remain untold.

That's because Isse and his fancy surgery scars offer what little tangible evidence exists of a bare-knuckled war that has been waged silently, over the past five years, with the sole aim of preventing anarchic Somalia from becoming the world's next Afghanistan.

It is a standoff war in which the Pentagon lobs million-dollar cruise missiles into a famine-haunted African wasteland the size of Texas. It is a covert war in which the CIA has recruited gangs of unsavory warlords to hunt down and kidnap Islamic militants and — according to Isse and civil rights activists — secretly imprison them offshore, aboard U.S. warships.

Mostly, though, it is a policy time bomb that will be inherited by the incoming Obama administration: a little-known front in the global war on terrorism that Washington appears to be losing, if it hasn't already been lost.

[Excerpt of an article by Paul Salopek, Chicago Tribune]


The fate of the nation's Big Three automakers and their employees

We await the fate of the nation's Big Three automakers and their employees.

"One out of 10 jobs in this country are auto-related. Twenty percent of retail sales are auto-related or automobiles, so this is a national problem," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, told NBC's "Meet the Press”.

The Center for Automotive Research, a think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that is pushing for a bailout, estimates about 2.5 million job cuts if just half of the Big Three's manufacturing capacity shuts down.

About 240,000 of those job losses would be at the automakers; 800,000 would be at various suppliers and dealerships; and another 1.4 million job losses would come from businesses that rely on automaker spending, the think tank estimates.



Anyone remember New York governor Elliot Spitzer?

According to a February 2008 Washington Post article by New York governor Elliot Spitzer, state attorneys-general who wanted to investigate allegations of mortgage fraud were blocked from doing so by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency within the U.S. Treasury Department.

Next the issue of a selected coterie of banks receiving one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds.

One single, lonely politician stood in the way: New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Spitzer not only took on mega-mortgage company Countrywide, he took on their predatory enablers in the investment banking community. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup’s Citibank that made mortgage usury their major profit centers.

The very same day the bail-out was decided, the man called ‘The Sheriff of Wall Street’ was cuffed. Spitzer was silenced.

No federal agency was charged with regulating mortgage fraud to take up the slack. The rest is history.

[Listen to radio report]


Global Aid focus on two Clintons

President-elect Obama could put philanthropy at the heart of his foreign policy, and former President Clinton could help him do it.

If President-elect Barack Obama selects Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, she will oversee many of the U.S. government's foreign aid programs, potentially turning her and her husband into an overwhelming force in global aid.

The William J. Clinton Foundation has ballooned into a global nongovernmental organization with a staff of more than 800, addressing chronic problems such as climate change, hunger, AIDS and malaria.

If Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was secretary of state, she and her husband could be positioned to lead a public-private partnership on the global stage unlike any before it, one that experts say would bring with it a host of potential benefits and pitfalls for the new president.

The problem for the president-elect, it seems, is that, there would be a danger of the impression that a donation to one of Bill Clinton’s undertakings would buy some sort of quid pro quo from his wife when it came to sensitive negotiations.

[The Washington Post] [The San Francisco Chronicle]


Israel 'using food and medicines as weapons'

Israel is collectively punishing innocent civilians by withholding and controlling food and medicine to Gaza, says Christian Aid.

Despite repeated calls from the international community, Gaza remains closed to food and medicine. For almost one and a half years, 1.5 million Palestinians have endured collective punishment as a result of Israel’s tight closure of Gaza.

In recent weeks the situation has once again deteriorated further with a resurgence of violence. Last week, UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for assisting Palestinian refugees, announced that it had run out of food to distribute. With 80 per cent of the population dependent upon food aid, the situation is critical but the crossings into Gaza – the only points of entry for people and goods - remain tightly closed.

Says Costa Dabbagh, from Near East Council of Churches, a Christian Aid partner, "It is not acceptable for us to be waiting for food to come. We want to live freely with Israel and other countries in peace, we are not against any individual or government, but we are against imprisonment."

Despite an agreement on cessation of violence since June 2008, Gazans remain isolated from the world and continue to live in abject poverty. Although getting food supplies into Gaza is a vital first step, Christian Aid believes steps must be taken to resolve the political crisis before people will see a real change in their lives.



All that money you've lost — did it even exist?

Trillions in stock market value — gone. Trillions in retirement savings — gone. ---It was never really money in the first place.

Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale, puts it bluntly: The notion that you lose a pile of money whenever the stock market tanks is a "fallacy." He says the price of a stock has never been the same thing as money — it's simply the "best guess" of what the stock is worth.

"It's in people's minds," Shiller explains. "We're just recording a measure of what people think the stock market is worth. What the people who are willing to trade today — who are very, very few people — are actually trading at. So we're just extrapolating that and thinking, well, maybe that's what everyone thinks it's worth."
Shiller uses the example of an appraiser who values a house at $350,000, a week after saying it was worth $400,000. "In a sense, $50,000 just disappeared when he said that," he said. "But it's all in the mind."

Though something, of course, is disappearing as markets and real estate values tumble. Even if a share of stock you own isn't a wad of bills in your wallet, even if the value of your home isn't something you can redeem at will, surely you can lose potential money — that is, the money that would be yours to spend if you sold your house or emptied out your mutual funds right now.

And if you're a few months away from retirement, or hoping to sell your house and buy a smaller one to help pay for your kid's college tuition, this "potential money" is something you're counting on to get by. For people who need cash and need it now, this is as real as money gets, whether or not it meets the technical definition of the word.

Still, you run into trouble when you think of that potential money as being the same thing as the cash in your purse or your checking account. There's a key distinction here: While the money in your pocket is unlikely to just vanish into thin air, the money you could have had, if only you'd sold your house or drained your stock-heavy mutual funds a year ago, most certainly can.

[Excerpt of an AP article by Eric Carvin]


Bush on the Economy: "This sucker could go down"

At the G-20 Economic Summit in Washington, President Bush, in a rare, unscripted moment, acknowledged that the extreme steps taken by the Fed and US Treasury--since Bear Stearns defaulted 17 months ago--were intended to avoid what he called "a depression greater than the Great Depression."

That's quite an admission for Bush, as well as a vindication of those who have been making the same prediction for more than 2 years.

And although Bush rejected any personal responsibility for the policies which led to the crisis, it's clear that he has some rudimentary grasp of its gravity. That's a start. As he opined to the press, "This sucker could go down".

[Mike Whitney, Internet commentator]


Consolidation Agenda by the Banking Giants

In his latest article "The Great Depression of the 21st Century: Collapse of the Real Economy" author and economist Michel Chossudovsky sheds some light on the agenda of the banking giants led by their standard-bearer at Treasury, Henry Paulson:

"Once they have consolidated their position in the banking industry, the financial giants including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, et al will use their windfall money gains and bailout money provided under TARP, to further extend their control over the real economy. The target of these acquisitions are the numerous highly productive industrial and services sector companies, which are on the verge of bankruptcy and/or whose stock values have collapsed.

“In a bitter twist, the new owners of industry are the institutional speculators and financial manipulators, … displacing not only the preexisting structures of ownership but also instating their cronies in the seats of corporate management".

Chossudovsky sums it up perfectly. The financial crisis is being used by Wall Street big-wigs to restructure the economy and create a permanent class of working poor.

[Mike Whitney, Internet commentator]


America Antipathy Paradox

Being hated is what happens to dominant empires. But who hates Americans the most? You might assume that it's people in countries that the United States has recently attacked or threatened to attack.

For example, according to a poll by Gallup's Center for Muslim Studies, 52 per cent of Iranians have an unfavorable view of the United States. But that figure is actually down from 63 per cent in 2001.

And it's significantly lower than the degree of antipathy towards the United States felt in Jordan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Two thirds of Jordanians and Pakistanis have a negative view of the United States and a staggering 79 per cent of Saudis. Sentiment has also turned hostile in Lebanon, where 59 per cent of people now have an unfavorable opinion of the United States, compared with just 41 per cent a year ago.

The paradox: It's not America's enemies in the Muslim world who hate the United States most, it's people in countries that are supposed to be America's friends, if not allies.

[In fact, the same is true of Britain.] Back in 1999, 83 per cent of British people surveyed said that they had a favorable opinion of the United States. But by 2006, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, that proportion had fallen to 56 per cent.

[The Telegraph]


The US media finally gets Georgia story right

Moscow's U.N. envoy praised The New York Times for challenging assertions that Russia started their brief war in August, saying U.S. media had finally got the story right. "It took three months for the U.S. media to start telling the truth about the August war in the Caucasus," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

Russia invaded Georgia last August to thwart an attempt by Tbilisi to re-establish control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The article states "the accounts suggest that Georgia's inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on August 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm."


Tough times: And last year Congress grew 13 Percent Richer

Times are tough, but don't worry about most members of Congress making ends meet.

Overall, nearly two of every three senators are millionaires. And their collective wealth grew by 13 percent last year.

Authors of the study said it's impossible to give a precise net worth for members of Congress because their individual assets and liabilities are disclosed in broad ranges. To conduct the study, the Center for Responsive Politics determined a member's minimum net worth and maximum net worth and then calculated an average, which was used to rank the members.

So the study suggests that members of Congress are in much better shape than most Americans to make it through an economic slowdown.

[McClatchy Newspapers]


America over the barrel

Robert Reich, an adviser to President-elect Obama, termed the present financial situation a “mini-depression.” And that designation might be optimistic.

His proposed solution is for the government to spend “a lot” more on infrastructure projects on top of a trillion dollar budget deficit. So who will finance the baseline trillion dollar US budget deficit, plus the additional red ink spending on infrastructure? Not Americans. The US savings rate is zero or negative.

For years, the US government’s budget has been dependent on foreigners financing the red ink. Countries such as Japan and China and OPEC suppliers of oil to the US recycle their huge export surpluses by buying US Treasury bonds, thus financing the US government’s red ink budgets.

However, the world has had enough of American irresponsibility and is taking away the reins.

At tomorrow's November 15th economic summit, the world will begin the process of imposing a new financial order on the US in exchange for continued lending to the bankrupt “superpower.”

[Excerpt of an article by Paul Craig Roberts, former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury]

read more


Why wealthy kids are giving their inheritance to charity

As the great-grandson of a pawnbroker, who made his fortune buying up shops in London suburbs, Michael Amherst could have chosen to blow his inheritance on drink, drugs or a small yacht. But at 25, he chose instead to invest £300,000 in founding Avonbrook Projects Abroad, a charity that promotes sustainable educational ventures in Africa and the developing world.

His peers are cast as the “Me Generation”, for whom little exists beyond The X Factor and updating their Facebook entries. Yet now, as Live Earth concerts make climate change and social responsibility cool among 16 to 25-year-olds, a new generation is developing a social conscience and new sense of philanthropy.

A recent survey by the Future Foundation found that a fifth of teenagers questioned saw themselves as “hardcore greens”, demonstrating that climate change and eco living are no longer fringe issues and last week 45 per cent of 16 to 25 year-olds questioned by the youth volunteering outfit, vinspired.com, said that they believed the world is too materialistic.

[Excerpt of an article by Alexandra Blair, The Times ( London )]


Behold the black horse of Revelations

"I beheld … a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, ‘A measure of wheat for a penny; and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine."(Revelation 6:5-6 KJV.)

Bible scholars say this black horse described in the Book of Revelations represents famine and poverty perpetrated by the rich who refuse to share with those in need.

Oil and wine, throughout the Scriptures, symbolize abundance or luxury. The fact that the oil and wine (as in the above passage from Revelation) were “hurt not” indicates a situation where wealth and luxury exist alongside famine and poverty — and the gulf between rich and poor is only growing.

By one interpretation this black horse’s rider "with the pair of balances in his hand" symbolizes the rich capitalists who have had a major impact on world conditions through their manipulation of national economies. Only one other verse in the Bible pictures a man with balances or scales: "The merchant uses dishonest scales; he loves to defraud" (Hosea 12:7 NIV).

Another prophet of old, Amos, also said the merchants — the wealthy capitalists of his day who were robbing the poor instead of helping them — "set forth wheat, making the ephah [unit of measure] small, and the shekel [price] great and falsifying the balances by deceit ... that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail" (Amos 8:4-6 KJV).

Sounds very much like the situation today.


Making a Killing from Hunger

Farmers around the world grow more than enough food to feed the entire world adequately.

Grain.org describes the core reasons for continuing hunger in a recent article “Making a Killing from Hunger.” It turns out that while farmers grow enough food to feed the world, commodity speculators and huge grain traders like Cargill control the global food prices and distribution.

Starvation is profitable for corporations when demands for food push the prices up.

For a family on the bottom rung of poverty a small price increase is the difference between life and death, yet neither US presidential candidate has declared a war on starvation. Instead both candidates talk about national security and the continuation of the war on terror as if this were the primary election issue. Where is the commitment to national security though unilateral starvation relief? Where is the outrage in the corporate media with pictures of dying children and an analysis of who benefits from hunger?

American people cringe at the though of starving children, often thinking that there is little they can do about it. Global hunger and massive wealth inequality is based on political policies that can be changed.

[Excerpt of an article by Peter Phillips, a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University]


How the financial meltdown will affect philanthropy and non-profits

[Excerpt of an interview with Jane Wales, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council/Global Philanthropy Forum and Vice President of the Aspen Institute.]

I think we have already seen in the UK and USA a situation in which the government has begun to shift responsibility for the provision of some services from the public sector to the social sector without shifting resources. In the USA , this process will accelerate because both the federal government and state and local governments are short on resources and the federal government has been engaged in deficit spending for a very long time.

Foundations pinched by markets expect to give less

Nationwide, charitable foundations, which are heavily invested in the stock market, are wringing their hands over the economic downturn that has seen the market plunge more than 40 percent since last October.

Private foundations — and the amount they give — are wedded to that falling market. Federal tax laws require them to distribute 5 percent of the value of their investment assets, whether that value is based on the previous year's bottom line or an average of several years.

As the assets go, so does giving.

The severity of the economic turmoil has foundation leaders uneasy about their ability to give, since they rely on healthy assets to hand out greater amounts of money.

"We've never seen this in our lifetime," said Monica Wroblewski, spokeswoman with the Council on Foundations, a nonprofit association in Arlington , Va. "Who knows what ramifications this will have?"

[The Akron Beacon Journal]

Vital International Aid for Pakistan

Saudi Arabia has agreed to give $4 billion to Pakistan and provide oil facility on one-year deferred payments to bail out the country from a debilitating economic crisis.

Separately, the US will also be supplying Pakistan with 50,000 tons of wheat under a food-aid program.

Pakistan will make a decision after November 10th on whether or not to seek financial help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country's top economic official said on Friday.

Pakistan is facing a balance-of-payments crisis but is hoping to avoid an IMF programme, which entails painful conditions, by securing help from allies and other multilateral lenders.

Shaukat Tarin, the prime minister's top economic adviser, told Reuters that Pakistan needs $10 billion to $15 billion to avoid a balance of payments crisis and make adjustments over the next two years.


The dirty little secret of the banking industry

In an unusually frank article published in the New York Times, the newspaper's economic columnist, Joe Nocera, reveals what he calls "the dirty little secret of the banking industry"--namely, that "it has no intention of using the [government bailout] money to make new loans."

The plan announced October 13 by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to hand over $250 billion in taxpayer money to the biggest banks was never really intended to get them to resume lending to businesses and consumers--the ostensible purpose of the bailout. Its essential aim was to engineer a rapid consolidation of the American banking system by subsidizing a wave of takeovers of smaller financial firms by the most powerful banks.

"It is starting to appear," the Times columnist writes, "as if one of the Treasury's key rationales for the recapitalization program--namely, that it will cause banks to start lending again--is a fig leaf.... In fact, Treasury wants banks to acquire each other and is using its power to inject capital to force a new and wrenching round of bank consolidation."


Two Parties, One Imperial Mission

The American empire will continue on its way, under bipartisan direction and mega-corporate pressure.

The US has the strongest army the world has ever known, and spends more than 20% of its annual budget on defense, nearly half of the spending of the rest of the world put together. It's good for the big US corporate arms manufacturers and their export sales. The Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, purchase billions of dollars of state-of-the-art ordnance.

Instead of establishing classic territorial colonies, the US secures its hegemony through some 700 military, naval and air bases in over 100 countries, the latest being in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Rumania, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ethiopia and Kenya. At least 16 intelligence agencies with stations the world over provide the ears and eyes of this borderless empire.

For US power elites, regardless of party, there is an absolute need and priority: until the implosion of the Soviet Union it was to lay the specter of communism; since 9/11 it is to slay the serpent of radical Islamism.

Neither presidential candidate proposed an alternative to the imperial charge except perhaps to muffle the moralising and messianic rhetoric in contentious relations with Iran, China and India, and a resurgent Russia - all four driven by untried, nationally conditioned forms of capitalism.

[Excerpt of a Counterpunch article by Arno J Mayer, emeritus professor of history Princeton University].


Pakistan seeks urgent Saudi funds

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari left for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday on a two-day visit to seek assistance for Pakistan's cash-strapped economy. Pakistan needs more than $5bn within a month to meet its international obligations.

According to the Pakistani foreign office, Mr Zardari will seek Saudi oil shipments against deferred payments of up to two years to reduce pressure on the country's trade imbalance.

He will also seek Saudi support for the forthcoming meeting of a group of countries called the "Friends of Pakistan" (FOP), the foreign office said. The FOP nations include the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, China, the UAE and several other countries. They are meeting in Abdu Dhabi on 17 November to devise ways of stabilizing Pakistan's economy.

Pakistan has been contemplating a short-term loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but says this would be its last resort, given the IMF's stringent conditions.



Comments on the Election

How come we choose from just two people to run for president, and 50 for Miss America?

Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong. ~Richard Armour

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other. ~Oscar Ameringer

The foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry. ~T.S. Eliot

We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove. ~Mark Twain


Global insurance policy needed to help distressed economies

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) needs "hundreds of billions of dollars" to help countries at risk of collapsing amid the world financial crisis.

Brown, who is in Saudi Arabia, told reporters "The oil producing countries, who have generated over one trillion dollars from higher oil prices in recent years, are in a position to contribute."

"If we are to stop the spread of the financial crisis, we need a better global insurance policy to help distressed economies," he said.

The IMF is set to bail out Hungary, Ukraine and Iceland, but needs to boost its coffers.

Brown said he has discussed the plan for extra funds for the IMF with its chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as well as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.



USA far from the richest nation in the world

With the largest, almost incomprehensible national debt in the world, exceeding all prior national debts combined since the founding of America, there is an honest avoidance of referring to the U.S.A. as “the richest nation in the world”.

A recent study by the Economic Cooperation and Development, comparing 30 nations finds the United States has the highest inequality and poverty rates in the OECD after Mexico and Turkey, and the gap has increased rapidly since 2000, the report said.

And the president of Partnership for the Homeless in New York City paints the reality: "The shrinking economy will undoubtedly mean less public financing for critical services and fewer jobs for our neighbors in need. During these fragile and uncertain economic times, we'll certainly be seeing thousands upon thousands more people teetering on the precipice, falling into homelessness."

And while 45 million Americans lack healthcare coverage, this Republican-led administration goes on spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. However that won’t stop American CEO's and Wall Street Bankers from maintaining the highest salaries in the world.


More on Bonuses for Failed Wall Street Bankers

The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a $700 billion taxpayer bailout, public outcry over excessive pay and the demise of three of the biggest securities firms won't deter Wall Street from offering year-end rewards to employees on top of their huge salaries.

Five straight quarters of losses and a 70 percent slide in its stock this year haven't stopped Merrill Lynch & Co. from allocating about $6.7 billion to pay bonuses.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, both still on track for profitable years, have set aside about $13 billion for bonuses. Even some employees at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which declared the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history last month, will get the same bonus they received a year ago.

Even without bonuses, Wall Street's traders and bankers typically receive salaries that range from $80,000 to $600,000 a year. That compares with the mean annual wage for the average U.S. employee of about $40,690 and a mean for CEOs of $151,370, according to a May 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

“I'm just flabbergasted that the financial community has failed to show any sense of leadership on this issue and doesn't seem to understand how angry people are at them,'' said Nell Minow, editor of Corporate Library, a Portland, Maine-based corporate-governance research firm. ``They are just a bonus away from having the villagers come after them with torches.''