Take down letter from Citigroup
from John Schmitt
I’ve just received my second Digital Millenium Copyright Act take-down letter. As before, the letter is from the Kilpatrick Townsend, Attorneys At Law, and, as before, the letter is on behalf of their client, Citigroup.
This time, Kilpatrick Townsend has asked me to remove a copy of a Citigroup research report on “plutonomy” that was featured in Michael Moore’s documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story.” I wrote a post on the report in October 2009 (scroll down, this is from before I started using permalinks on the old version of my blog) and included a link to a pdf version of the document, which I had also uploaded on to my own site.
As before, I will comply with their request. But, I will also point out how absurd this whole process is. To start with, a quick Google search will show that the file remains widely available on the internet. Citigroup is trying to empty the sea with a bucket. Of course, that Sisyphean task is practically the whole point for the law offices of Kilpatrick Townsend. I imagine that they have a team of trained Googlers, who bill by the hour to hunt down unauthorized copies of Citigroup research documents. When they find a document, which can’t take long because I just found several, the firm sends out a take-down letter, written by lawyers who bill by the hour. And when the firm gets really lucky, a blogger or an ISP fights back, and then Kilpatrick Townsend gets to spend more billable hours squabbling with somebody on the internets who is unhappy about something.
Below is my original plutonomy post –minus the link to the Citigroup memo, of course.
The plane I’m on right now has free WiFi, so I can’t resist a quick post with a link to the Citigroup memo [LINK REMOVED AT CITIGROUP'S REQUEST] on the “Plutonomy”, featured in Michael Moore’s new movie “Capitalism: A Love Story”.
The report, from October 2005, is remarkable for its open exuberance about high and rising inequality in the United States. At least it gets the facts right:
…the world is dividing into two blocs – the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest. Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S.
…the top 1% of households in the U.S., (about 1 million households) accounted for about 20% of overall U.S. income in 2000, slightly smaller than the share of income of the bottom 60% of households put together. That’s about 1 million households compared with 60 million households, both with similar slices of the income pie! …the top 1% of households also account for 33% of net worth, greater than the bottom 90% of households put together. It gets better (or worse, depending on your political stripe) – the top 1% of households account for 40% of financial net worth, more than the bottom 95% of households put together. This is data for 2000… Since 2000 was the peak year in equities, and the top 1% of households have a lot more equities in their net worth than the rest of the population who tend to have more real estate, these data might exaggerate the U.S. plutonomy a wee bit.
Citigroup even gets a key point that eludes most people, whose time horizon is heavily skewed toward the last 30 years:
Was the U.S. always a plutonomy – powered by the wealthy, who aggrandized larger chunks of the economy to themselves? Not really.
And the text follows with a good discussion of how economic inequality was on the decline in the United States for most of the 20th century.
The Citigroup analysts, however, did get one thing spectacularly wrong. They argued that talk of economic stability and financial fragility misunderstood the dynamics of the new plutonomy.
“Most ‘Global Imbalances’ (high current account deficits and low savings rates, high consumer debt levels in the Anglo-Saxon world, etc) that continue to (unprofitably) preoccupy the world’s intelligentsia look a lot less threatening when examined through the prism of plutonomy.”