This is Times Square – maybe 20 years before the time I’m writing about:
A very steampunk
Times Square. I’m enchanted by the warrens of weird little storefronts, vaudeville theaters, and hotels.
In fact, the Times Building had not yet been constructed, so this place is still Longacre Square.
In 1904, there were only 8,000 cars in America. The average American lifespan was 47 years of age. Mississippi had more inhabitants than California. There was no income tax. There was no canned beer. Opium derivatives were sold openly in drugstores, advertised thusly: Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health
Times Square had changed a great deal by the time Henry and June were hanging out there. I’ve been searching for pix from the 1920s, but there seem to be remarkably few of them.
There’s no way Bernie Sanders will carry New York, so he’s out of the electoral equation as of 10 days from now.
His economic message continues to resonate most deeply for me.
True, that Daily News interview
was quite ghastly. His understanding of the legal aspects of banking is undoubtedly flawed, but then he’s not a lawyer. (Many of us see that as a good
thing.) I suspect he’s exhausted. I suspect he never expected to make it as far as he has.
Multiple learned pundits are now picking apart Sanders’ contention that reinstating the Glass-Steagall provisions of FDR’s 1933 Banking Act would reform the banking system. I disagree. I don't think economies of scale work in any
Glass-Steagall essentially segregated banks into two categories. Banks could either deal with small customers, taking deposits, lending mortgage money, making small business loans, or they could deal with the more speculative aspects of high finance, buying and selling stocks, bonds, and loans, and overseeing corporate merges. They couldn't do both. Reinstituting Glass-Seagall would
lead to the breakup of the big banks because it would force banks (once again) to specialize.
Banks have a very basic function in a capitalist economy. They take in money, and then they loan it out again. Once the money is loaned out it, is returned to a bank, which can then loan it out again: This increases the amount of money in the economy. This combination of greed, ingenuity, and willpower is what creates wealth.
Financial tools like credit default swaps, on the other hand, generate currency from currency without wealth ever entering the picture. There are endless problems with financial tools and pretty much no upside whatsoever for the working class.
Hillary Clinton proposes to monitor excesses through regulation, which would apply to the entire financial sector. So, I suppose the choice between Sanders and Clinton is a choice between a mechanism that changes the ecology or a set of rules that police the ecology.
Would Glass-Steagall have prevented the rise of the credit default swap market that catalyzed the 2008 economic collapse?
I have no idea.
exert pressure toward greater transparency in financial markets -- always a good thing -- but speculative investors were
finding ways around that. I guess in the final analysis, I like Sanders better than Hillary Clinton when it comes to reigning in Wall Street because I just don't see Hillary Clinton pulling a Thomas Beckett on that one, and she is so deeply, deeply enmeshed in that culture.
One of the very interesting things that's happening now is that wealth creation appears to be entirely based on Chinese labor. Here in the States, we're rapidly encroaching upon an era where wealth/money/whatever you want to call it is being uncoupled from the traditional Marxist function of labor
. So, really, here
, it's an increasingly imaginary
concept – in the sense that wealth exists through some sort of social consensus
but it's not tied into a physical reality. In that sense, Bernie Sanders is kinda like Julian the Apostate.
There is truly massive, epic
labor in China, though. I mean, c’mon! They built an entire magnetic bullet train system in five years.
Yesterday was my last day doing taxes in Staatsburg. I like
Staatsburg: It has a strong sense of The Weirdness. Anything
could happen in Staatsburg. It’s like a portal to an alternate reality that’s just waiting for the right spell to open it.
My last client of the day was a very distinguished gentleman in his early 70s who’d been drinking a lot – or so his complexion and the frayed collar of his expensive tailored Oxford shirt suggested.
He was a very recent widower, filing a joint return: His wife had died on December 17.
“She was the one who managed this kind of stuff,” he told me.
Coming in was obviously quite painful for him. He sat there reading a dog-eared copy of a Zane Grey Western while I pored through his documents. Ohhhhh! Lots
and lots of income – over $200K! On which he owed a huge
amount of taxes, but wait a minute – in 2014, they had itemized
“Do you have your property tax statements?” I asked.
“No,” he said. My question seemingly had irritated him. “Am I supposed
to have my property tax statements?”
“Well, uh, yes
,” I said.
“Well, what do you want me to do?” he snapped.Well, I want you to sign over all your assets to me in an irrevocable trust!
Instead, I kept poring through his 2014 tax returns. Prepared by HR Block! They’d done okay by him, too. Put him in the black by a couple of hundred dollars. But how
? Ah! There
it was. He had a business
! A business that consistently lost money
am perfectly capable of preparing a Schedule C that shows losses, but as a member of the volunteer tax brigade, I am enjoined from doing so – probably because returns with Schedule C losses are audited at a much higher rate, and unlike HR Block, we don’t indemnify the people for whom we do returns.
“I’m afraid I can’t finish your return,” I said. “Turns out that it’s out of scope. But, here
. I’m going to make you a list of every single document you have to bring in to your tax preparer –“
“Can’t I just file for an extension?” he snapped.
“Well, you can
,” I said. “But you’d need to file that extension with a $12,000 check. So, I think it would be in your best interests to get your taxes finished before the filing date.”
So then I spent half an hour
making a list that any 11-year-old of average intelligence could understand of all the types of documentation he needed to hunt down and bring in. ‘Cause you know – I’m a living saint.
I did not expect to get thanked, and I wasn’t.
The woman before him was just as annoying. A Mafia princess type, now entering her late 40s, which alas! signifies the end of her reign. Though her red talons looked to have been worked on by God’s own manicurist, I was pretty sure her DD breasts owed their buoyancy to some human plastic surgeon’s ingenuity.
She was another one who hadn’t brought in half her documents.
“Why do you have to tell
them I got unemployment?” she wheedled. “Can’t you just tell them I didn’t
get unemployment?”Well, I could
, I thought, if you'd just kept your mouth shut about the unemployment. And what is that shade of lipstick you're wearing? Kardashian Labia Pink?
“That would be unethical, wouldn’t it?” I replied instead with my perkiest smile. “I’ll make you an appointment to come to Hyde Park on Tuesday. I’ll come in early, and we’ll get this finished up! But you’ll need to bring me your 1099-G.”
“How do I get that
?” she moaned.
So then I spent half an hour walking her through the process of going online and downloading
“Why don’t you just do it for me?” she coaxed.
And that would have been easy enough to do, except I didn’t like her; she incited all my incipient SBP (Serious Bitch Potential): There was no fucking way I was going to do anything
to make her life easier. Her life had been easy enough.
Chances are she won’t show on Tuesday. Which means she’ll miss out on a $1,000 tax refund.