The Miracle Product That Cures Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome!

By Dan Kervick

During last year’s presidential election, Dr. Willard M. Romney diagnosed a previously unrecognized epidemic illness that is eating away at the moral foundations of our country.  Romney was the first medical scientist to grasp that 47% of our citizens have been transformed into an army of zombie parasites now known to the experts as “moochers.”  The moochers have been infected with DES, Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome, a 21st century plague whose victims live lives solely devoted to sucking funds from the bank accounts of decent people.   Not one to sit idly by while an invasive undead horde saps and impurifies our precious bodily fluids, Dr. Romney attempted to sound the national alarm about the moocher scourge.  But alas, he was ahead of his time.  The country was not yet ready to hear his bracing but prescient DES warning.

Moochers might appear normal, but don’t be fooled by appearances!  While these bloodsuckers are seemingly busy changing bedpans, waxing the floor at your office, serving up stacks of pancakes at Denny’s and standing in long lines to beg abjectly for “jobs’, they are all the while draining our hard-won and well-merited wealth.  A tell-tale symptom of DES is that while moochers pay all kinds of sales taxes, payroll taxes and government fees just like the rest of us, they don’t pay any income taxes.  Imagine!  No income taxes!   The DES sufferer will tell you that the absence of income tax obligations is somehow related to the moocher’s extreme deficiency in actual income.  A likely story!

Moochery is the new leprosy.  Its victims cannot be cured, but only isolated from the rest of us by being cut off from access to lobbyists, fund-raising dinners, Justice Department cronies, voting booths, think tank idea moguls, astroturfing consultants, and all the other instruments by means of which normal, healthy people influence the direction of government and society.  They must even be cut off from access to regular, remunerative employment.  Economists are now helping the cause by gradually redefining the natural rate of unemployment upward to take the profusion of unemployable moochers into account.  It is expected that by 2021, the country will have become quite comfortable with workforce participation rates of 50% or less.

But what hope is there for the rest of us?  If Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome can’t be cured, can it at least be prevented?  Scientists now know the answer is – yes!  And the urgently needed prophylaxis has lain within our grasp all along.  A common, widely-sold product that is available to almost all worthy and non-mooching people with a respectable amount of money in the bank can keep DES at bay indefinitely.

What is this marvelous treatment?  You might have noticed that there is an increasingly massive industry in our country that sells something called “financial products”.  This industry now comprises close to 40% of our economy.  What is a financial product, you ask?  It is the most amazing, miracle invention known to humankind! You can buy one of these financial products and then just wait – go on a vacation, do your nails, play golf – while doing absolutely nothing productive.  And when you come back you find that your financial product has disgorged free money! You don’t even have to water it!

Where does the money come from? Hardly anyone really knows! The person who sold the financial product probably doesn’t know; and certainly the person who bought the financial product doesn’t know.   (A hysterical rumor has been spread that some of these financial products derive their cash flows from the work of some of the moochers themselves; but economists have now proven this manifestly ridiculous theory to be unambiguously false.)  What we do know is that the money is 100% deserved.  And that makes financial products the perfect barrier to fend off the DES virus and the onset of acute moochitis.

But what are financial products made of, you ask? What hidden quintessence produces these glorious emanations of lucre? So far as scientists have been able to discern, financial products are mostly derivative products that come from other financial products!  And the best thing about these money-engendering financial products is that to buy most of them you are required to have a lot of money already. So the more money you have the more money you are able to get. Just buy a financial product, sit back and enjoy the spontaneous money ejaculations!

Financial products have been shown to have all sorts of salubrious psychological effects. Doctors have shown that the mere ownership of financial products causes their owners to develop extremely high levels of self-esteem and unshakable convictions of personal merit. Even though the owners of financial products might do nothing productive, they become resolutely convinced that the effort they put into deciding which financial products to buy is in itself a form of meritorious personal industry.  The ability to buy and sell lucrative financial products with a rapidity exceeding the perceptual thresholds of naked eye vision is viewed by their owners as the most exalted of all human occupations.  Also, staring into one’s financial products sometimes induces the same kinds of transcendent experiences and levels of higher consciousness others have attained from close concentration on mandalas and lava lamps.

The owners of financial products also develop contempt for the meaner and more productive occupations in life, which is no doubt good for their health as it makes them avoid all kinds of physical hazards, toxic industrial environments, and muscular stresses and strains (unrelated to golfing).  Indeed, the shrewd owner of financial products acquires the belief that the very fact that their discernment is more keen than others, to the degree that they are able to bathe in fountains of money without expending the kinds of labor others must undertake to enjoy much smaller trickles, is proof positive of their ordained desert. The fact that others demonstrably lack those rare combinations of personal qualities that make a person a discerning purchaser of financial products, and so must work for a living instead, only convinces the owner of financial products that work is a barbarous vestigial habit of the undeserving undermasses.

But isn’t the psychological conviction that one deserves flows of money that are not derived in any measurable way from one’s own productive contribution to society, and that seem to come from magically reproducing money alone, a sense of entitlement?  The effects of financial product ownership seem disturbingly similar to the moochachondriacal symptoms of DES, do they not?  If I own some financial products and feel entitled to their monetary discharges, how do I know that I am not suffering from DES myself?

The effects may look similar on the surface, but don’t be fooled by these false positives in self-administered DES tests!  Just as in the case of cholesterol, scientists have learned to distinguish “good” entitlement from “bad” entitlement.   The technical names are “1-alpha entitlement” and “86-zeta entitlement”, but let us not be sidetracked by jargon.  Bad entitlement is the kind of entitlement one feels when one thinks one is entitled to a decent life in exchange for a willingness to work to the best of one’s abilities, given the natural gifts one possesses, however meager, and given the opportunities for work that one’s society has offered.  Bad entitlement is the entitlement of the DES-afflicted moocher.  Good entitlement is that kind of entitlement one experiences from the assurance of one’s own cleverness in the buying and idle owning of financial products.  (1-alpha entitlement is closely related to the other members of the alpha family of entitlement experiences, such as 800-alpha entitlement: the entitlement feelings that flow from having high SAT scores; and 10-alpha entitlement: the sense of entitlement that derives from being totally hot.)

As Martin Luther King said, “The course of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice!”  If King was right, then there is no doubt that Willard Romney will eventually receive his just due from the world: a Noble Prize in medicine for his studies in the identification and treatment of Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome.  He has already been nominated for other prizes, including the Eric Holder memorial Too Big to Bother lifetime prosecution exemption award from the US Justice Department.  And yet, what if King was wrong?  Well, Romney is already an accomplished virtuoso in the buying and ownership of financial products, so his real reward will remain the quiet, inward assurance of his own awesomeness, and the enjoyment of his 100% merited 1-alpha entitlement.  Dr. King, on the other hand, is not known to have possessed any noteworthy skills in the acquisition and holding of financial products.  So really, who cares what he thought?

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45 Responses to The Miracle Product That Cures Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome!

  1. This post is jibberish. Stick to economics.

    • Thank you Mr Scrooge!

    • You don’t think that issues about entitlements, financial products and the nature of financial capitalism are part of economics?

      • Stephen Nightingale

        Indeed, the best treatment against Financial Entitlement Syndrome is a constant drizzle of derision and ridicule from DES-afflictees everywhere.

    • Righto, MikeP! You and every other stooge who believes economics exists solely and uniquely away from global finance probably fuel the paranormal romance and Harry Potter publication purchases. Negative, sonny, if you don’t understand credit derivatives, securitization (and that the securitization process, based upon stocks and not bonds as it is this time around, was first practised in 1907 and exploding during the 1920s, leading up to the Great Crash of 1929, and ended with the passage of the Securities Act in 1933), rehypothecation (and why it’s legal in the global speculators’ capital, London, but not supposed to be legal in the USA — although consistently practised here as well, illegally), etc., etc., etc., and where money creation takes place and who has the hierarchical control over money creation, then you certainly won’t understand ANYTHING, and definitely not the finer details (such as cap-and-trade, carbon permits, etc., being nothing more than more free money for Wall Street and their oil companies, etc., another extension of the shadow banking crapola).

      • Thanks, sgt_doom. I’d completely forgotten about this. It was in Ron Suskind’s book, wasn’t it?

  2. Really great post. Thank you Dan!

  3. Butch Busselle

    Funny, Dan, but I don’t think Willard is as smart as a dog. I don’t think rubbing his nose in it will make him stop…

    • Butch, you were a moocher too, in the 90’s when you were poverty stricken: TGY’s, Ma Fudd’s, Unltd. Investigations… testing positively on morphine from poppy seed muffins. Right?
      Do you now test positively on financial products?

  4. reserveporto

    “And the best thing about these money-engendering financial products is that to buy most of them you are required to have a lot of money already.”

    This isn’t really true for most financial products. Financial products are actually very cheap and the main barrier to ownership is the learning curve involved in finding out about them, how they work, and how to purchase them. With a free account at an online discount brokerage you can purchase any quantity you can afford of nearly any publicly-traded financial product.

    What is expensive are real assets. Try buying a factory or a farm or a fully staffed office or even just a house. One can have what a mere 20 years ago sounded like a good-sized portfolio and owning a mere quarter acre of real estate will completely destroy any attempt to achieve diversification without debt. Financial products represent mere fractions of the ownership of the cash flows from such real assets and as such are much more accessible than full ownership. The fees associated can be expensive certainly and the lack of control over the cash flows severely constrains the potential return of such financial assets. I’d actually say that financial assets are the poor man’s way of controlling wealth.

    • How about hedge funds?

      • reserveporto

        A hedge fund is an investing strategy. Hiring a hedge fund has a minimum investment in the $1 million range, but a hedge fund is not a financial asset itself. Most of the financial assets it trades – stocks, bonds, options, swaps, etc, etc – you too can trade. If you know about hedging and feel confident that your pricing models are better than your competition’s pricing models, you too can hedge. You won’t get any discounts that come from buying in bulk or reduced trading fees. You also can’t get in on their private equity deals. But private equity deals involve purchases of real assets, such as companies, full ownership of which is definitely very pricey. Hedge funds are very risky because they achieve their high rates of return by using very high levels of leverage. The biggest such funds, when their pricing models prove inaccurate – like LTCM -, are so highly leveraged that failure can severely impact their lenders and even financial markets in general.

        • Well, I see what you’re saying, but it seems to me the difference between buying a piece of an investment fund that buys other financial products, and buying the financial products themselves, is a formal distinction without a substantive difference. Hedge funds look to me like gated financial communities that deliver enormous profits to their residents, so long as they can afford the membership fee.

          • “Hedge funds look to me like gated financial communities that deliver enormous profits to their residents, so long as they can afford the membership fee.”

            Dan, I think you’re a little off the mark here. The hedge fund world is very diverse. It’s just one broad category of private investment partnerships, so the label is about as precise as “mutual fund.” Most are not in the business of seeking or delivering “enormous profits.” (Manager fees, on the other hand…) The most common objective tends to be along the lines of near-stock-market-like returns (mid to high single digits) with bond-like volatility (low to mid-single digits) and low correlation to other assets. The only funds we hear about and remember are those that did make a killing, as in The Big Short or the wild west days of Soros, Rogers et al, but that’s not the norm. And if there’s a gate around the community, it was largely built by federal securities regulations. (That last one is just an observation, not a value judgment.)

        • The term hedge fund is a misnomer. If your positions are fully hedged, there can be little profit in it. Hedge funds actually place bets in the market place either long or short to catch a trend in either direction. Astute traders know that they have to limit their risk and this can be done by not placing too big a bet on any one idea, and if the trade goes against them by a specified amount, they get out of the trade. Hanging on to losing trades is what can cause huge losses.

          • Again, people who don’t have all the facts at their disposal are mischaracterizing the hedge fund industry (or going into irrelevant discussions of trading techniques). There are plenty of trend- or momentum-focused funds, but they are not the entire industry.

            Partial hedges allow for directional (long or short) participation. The original hedge fund was partially hedged. In long-short frameworks, funds seek ‘abnormal’ returns on both the long (undervalued) and short (overvalued) sides, whereas the financial industry typically focuses only on the former.

            Some funds make HUGE bets. See Paulson et al in The Big Short. Most do not. They try to offer a more attractive risk-reward profile to wealthier investors. That said, HFs are very diverse in terms of strategies, asset classes, etc.

            Perhaps most relevant to this discussion, as a group, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission found little fault with hedge fund conduct leading up to the crisis. Problems were focused in mortgage originators, Wall Street investment banks, and CDO underwriters. (The FCIC report is available online. )

            • “Problems were focused in mortgage originators, Wall Street investment banks, and CDO underwriters.”

              I forgot to include rating agencies.

    • This isn’t really true for most financial products.

      This is a completely specious remark or comment.
      Anyone who has been studying credit derivatives, since their inception (to pay off the S&L debacle, by the way, so they’ve been in existence for over several decades now, simply exploding with the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act (or really, the global super-corruption bankster enabling act) and the previous Private Securities Litigration Reform Act (passed uanimously by congress around 1995 or 1996, which legalized financial fraud to a certain degree, as recommended by the Group of Thirty in response to an inquiry from JPMorgan, as well as JP Morgan’s report entitled, Glass-Steagall: Overdue for Repeal. (group30.org for their membership roster)

      • (sorry, didn’t complete my thought) knows that the number of cost of credit derivative products is simply staggering, and other than pension funds (especially superannuated funds), hedge funds, private equity funds, the banksters, especially the largest banksters who typically own the largest hedge funds (now why don’t we EVER hear that in Corporate Media????) are the purveyors and traders of such.

    • reserveporto: “financial assets are the poor man’s way of controlling wealth.” Really, you believe that? If you made $20 an hour and worked ever week of the year, you could not control your wealth. You would be lucky to pay for your bills and eat. Poor people don’t control wealth; they live from day to day (or paycheque to paycheque).

  5. Keep it up Dan. Loved it.

  6. “the Eric Holder memorial Too Big to Bother lifetime prosecution exemption award from the US Justice Department”

    Brilliant. I laughed out loud. And then had to try to explain to coworkers what was so funny. (I got blank stares.)

  7. Epic piece Dan… humor is often a communicators best tool. Brings to mind something in the overall dialogue that “drives me nuts!”

    Why oh why (and how) did the progressive movement get sucked into the trap of using the derogative term “entitlement” in reference to social programs?

    • There was nothing wrong with “entitlement” when the term originally came into common use. In fact, it meant something you had a right to. But then the Right started attacking the term along with the term “liberal,” and the liberals turned tail and ran away from both terms instead of defending them. This also coincided with the left’s embrace of the desirability of “balanced budgets” because it was convenient to run against Republicans’ very large deficits during Reagan’s time. The party of “tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect” decided that a strategy of aping 1950s Republicanism would work better for them, so they let the notion that people had economic rights die, and that’s when “entitlement’ became a pejorative term instead of one meaning: get your ‘effin mitts off what I’m entitled to.

      Of course all this suits the neoliberals very well because they want people to believe that they have no right to anything except what they can get by participating in neoliberal economies designed to deliver more wealth to the already wealthy, and more poverty to everyone else. We need to rehabilitate “entitlement” and keep the ‘effin mitts of the plutocrats off what’s ours!

      • “the left’s embrace of the desirability of “balanced budgets” because it was convenient to run against Republicans’ very large deficits during Reagan’s time. ”

        Hi Joe, it goes back further than that. Look at the Dems record during the Carter years, for example.

        I’m wildly speculating, but it might have been a reaction to the post-Great Society drubbing (i.e., Nixon’s election)?

      • Joe, I’m unclear about what you’re saying at March 20, 2013 at 3:42 pm. I remember Reagan’s fourth platform item being restoring us to the gold standard. Shit you not.

        From Wikipedia:

        Detractors of Reagan’s policies note that although Reagan promised to simultaneously slash taxes, massively increase defense spending and balance the budget, by the time he left office the nation’s budget deficit had tripled in his eight years in office. In 2009, Reagan’s budget director noted that the “… debt explosion has resulted not from big spending by the Democrats, but instead the Republican Party’s embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.”

        The insidious doctrine was “Starving The Beast.” Again, from Wikipedia:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starve_the_beast

        “Starving the beast” is a political strategy employed by American conservatives in order to limit government spending[1][2][3] by cutting taxes in order to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to force the federal government to reduce spending. The short and medium term effect of the strategy has dramatically increased the United States public debt rather than reduce spending.

        The term “the beast” in this context refers to the American government and the programs it funds, particularly social programs[4] such as welfare, Social Security, and Medicare[3]; and does not usually refer to spending on military, law enforcement or prisons.

        Is this when Pete Peterson got the bug? Then, there’s this, from the same page. A gem from Greenspan:

        On July 14, 1978, economist Alan Greenspan gave testimony to the U.S. Finance Committee: “Let us remember that the basic purpose of any tax cut program in today’s environment is to reduce the momentum of expenditure growth by restraining the amount of revenue available and trust that there is a political limit to deficit spending.”[5]

        Before his election as President, then-candidate Ronald Reagan foreshadowed the strategy during the 1980 US Presidential debates, saying “John Anderson tells us that first we’ve got to reduce spending before we can reduce taxes. Well, if you’ve got a kid that’s extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker.”[6]

        The earliest use of the actual term “starving the beast” to refer to the political-fiscal strategy (as opposed to its conceptual premise) was in a Wall Street Journal article in 1985 where the reporter quoted an unnamed Reagan staffer.[7]

  8. Well what can we all expect on the very last page of Frans De Waal’s book “Our Inner Ape” I was not shocked to discover he’d written we are “the most internally conflicted animals ever to walk the earth.”

    • We’re the only ones who can experience internal conflict. It’s the internal irritant that creates the pearl of consciousness.

  9. RolloMartins

    Thank you for this article. I have had a long history of looking down my nose at the moocher class as has a friend of mine. Unfortunately he thinks the moochers are those on Medicaid. I tell him that in my experience (and I worked at Walmart for ten years) the hardest workers were those on Medicaid. Those on Wall St, though were another matter. Oh, I suppose those long nights at strip joints sniffing white powder might constitute “work” but only in an alternate universe.

  10. At last- an explanation of the tragic affliction which allowed vampire banksters to flourish, leaving countless zombie banks in their wake. Jonathan Swift, Will Rogers, Ambrose Bierce, et.al. would be impressed. A wonderful post. Thanks for making my day!

  11. casino implosion

    “…Even though the owners of financial products might do nothing productive, they become resolutely convinced that the effort they put into deciding which financial products to buy is in itself a form of meritorious personal industry…”

    LOL. I believe they call it “allocating capital to its most efficient uses” or some such.

  12. Great post. I agree that hunor is a great way to drive points across. I loved your MMT Christmas Carol from last December! Your writing is always crystal clear. You and J.D. Alt are writing some of the best pieces out there these days. Keep it up.

  13. –that 47% of our citizens have been transformed into an army of zombie parasites now known to the experts as “moochers.” The moochers have been infected with DES, Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome–

    This class of moochers is in factthe result of too much protection by the state. These entitlements to work properly should in fact be targetted.

    • Ah yes, the moochers. You have been reading Ayn Rand, haven’t you ?

      She wrote long boring diatribes in unending praise of monopoly capitalism, interspersed with mawkish vignettes about her highly neurotic sociopath friends and how they screw the working class, while living in luxury. Her erstwhile toy boy was none other than Alan Greenspam of Federal Reserve fame.

  14. Pingback: The Miracle Product That Cures Degenerative Entitlement Syndrome! | misebogland

  15. just land.

  16. yes, you get a piece of paper that says you own gold or own land, etc..

    and I thought possession was 9 tenths….

    • You can take delivery of the gold you buy on a futures contract, when the due date looms. Of course, you have to come up with the cash i.e. a debit from you bank account for the full amount.