Thursday, June 11, 2009

Spare Some Change I Can Believe In?

Illustration for Rolling Stone last August by Victor Juhasz
We invent nothing, truly. We borrow and re-create. We uncover and discover. All has been given, as the mystics say. We have only to open our eyes and hearts, to become one with that which is.
---Henry Miller
Something has to die in order for us to begin to know our truths.
---Adrienne Rich
Deep in the mountains,
In a tree on a farm,
A single dove sings out,
Searching: lonely voice of evening.
Since Barack Obama’s inauguration, many who campaigned hard for him down here in the grassroots have been surprised. I won’t say disappointed yet. Yes, he’s tackled many of the issues his supporters hoped for. But the wars rage on. Gitmo’s still open and torturing. Sure, he’s working on corporations and executive pay, but what’s all this with banks and Wall Street?
Many of us who ended up voting for him, and even knocking on doors to get people out on Election Day, did not have hopes as high as those on his bandwagon from the start. We had supported other candidates…and people like me, somewhere to the left of socialists, had had to settle for them. A visit to Athens by Michelle Obama had stirred me up, but her husband came within spitting distance of our town just before Primary Day, appeared at an exclusive, roped-off, invitation-only occasion at Hocking College, and didn’t take 5 minutes to swing around to Democratic Headquarters down here to cheer on hundreds of teen-age volunteers out on bicycles distributing his literature. When finally we traveled down to Portsmouth to see him, he was over an hour late but the speech was OK, promising CHANGE. I felt a distinct elite streak.
A year ago this summer, I looked forward to each new issue of Rolling Stone for an update by Matt Taibbi on Campaign ‘08. No one was more surprised than I that publications like Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair were becoming the journals of radical record in American politics. And this Taibbi guy, not yet 40, was turning out to be the most dynamic, original, and uncompromising reporter anywhere. Often peppered with obscenities, his dispatches were profoundly researched but overall revealed none of the candidates actually were showing him anything. Once it got down to Obama and McCain, Matt Taibbi just settled back to watch the Wall Street sharks move in.
On August 21st, his article Candidates For Sale appeared. I found, unfortunately, that reading it now is like a prophetic explanation of why the banks and brokers are untouched. They even had to ask permission apparently to pay back some of their bailout! How does that work? And just how detailed was that bank report card? How long does it take to audit banks as big as those thoroughly? Who are these guys running the Treasury Department? Is the fox guarding the henhouse again? Let me share a bit of Taibbi’s analysis back then with you~~~
"The truth is that the campaigns of both Barack Obama and John McCain are being inundated with cash from more or less exactly the same gorgons of the corporate scene. From Wall Street to the Big Oil powerhouses to the military-industrial complex, America's fat-cat business leaders know that the Animal House-style party of the last eight years that made almost all of them rich with bonuses, government contracts and bubble profits is about to come to an end, and someone is going to have to pay to clean up the mess. They want that someone to be you, not them, and they've spared no expense to make sure both presidential candidates will be there to bail them out next year.
"They're succeeding. Both would-be presidents have already sold us out. They've taken the money and run — completing the cyclical transformation of the American political narrative from one of monopolistic Republican iniquity to an even more depressing tale about the overweening power of corporate money and the essentially fictitious nature of our two-party system...
"Who knows — maybe Barack Obama will surprise us if he wins the election. But if you look at the money, it doesn't look good....
"Overall, Obama is flat-out kicking McCain's ass when it comes to Wall Street contributions, raking in nearly $9 million from securities and investment executives, compared to $6.2 million for McCain. Obama has received more contributions from Goldman Sachs than from any other employer — more than $627,000 at this writing — not to mention $398,021 from JP Morgan Chase, $353,922 from Lehman Brothers and $291,388 from Morgan Stanley. Even among hedge-fund executives, who have an unequivocal interest in electing McCain, Obama is whipping the Republican, collecting $500,000 more than McCain. All of which begs the question: Why would corporate giants like these throw so much weight behind a man who promises to strip them of billions in tax breaks?
"Sadly, the answer to that question increasingly appears to be that Obama is, well, full of shit. He has made no bones about his plans to raise income by soaking the rich, promising to roll back the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250,000, increase the top tax rate on capital gains to 25 percent and raise the top rate on qualified dividends. He has also pledged to deliver a real stomach punch to hedge-fund managers, raising the tax rate on most of their income from 15 percent to 35 percent.
"These populist pledges sound good, but many business moguls appear to be betting that the tax policies, like Obama himself, are only that: something that sounds good. 'I think we don't want to make too much of his promises on taxes,' says Robert Pollin, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts. 'Not all of these things will happen.' Noting the overwhelming amount of Wall Street money pouring into Obama's campaign, even elitist fuckwad David Brooks was recently moved to write, 'Once the Republicans are vanquished, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for that capital-gains tax hike.'
"Those worried that Obama might be all talk when it comes to needed reform had a real scare in July, when the senator failed to show up to vote for the Stop Excessive Speculation Act, a bill designed to curb rampant oil speculation. Oil speculators provide the perfect microcosm of what happened to the economy under Bush. Back in 2001, investment banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan got together and created an online exchange called the ICE for trading energy commodities. The ICE ended up buying the British-regulated International Petroleum Exchange; it then opened trading windows in the U.S., allowing Wall Street investment banks to make oil-futures trades on American soil, on their very own commodities exchange, without any federal regulation whatsoever.
"'In financial terms, they were playing blackjack at tables where they themselves were the dealers, in casinos they themselves owned,' says Warren Gunnels, a senior policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders. 'It was crazy.' Trading on the ICE had a massive impact on U.S. gasoline prices, and more than one legislator wondered if energy speculators were manipulating the market, as energy traders like Enron had been before. The speculation bill was designed to regulate the ICE and place limits on trades. But on the day before Obama returned from his eight-day, eight-country, megadazzling international photo op, Democrats failed by a vote of 50-43 to force a vote on the bill, as heavy lobbying by investment banks like Goldman Sachs torpedoed the effort.
"Not only did Obama not show up to vote, he appeared at a public forum three days later flanked by Jon Corzine and Robert Rubin, two former Goldman executives, to discuss how to revive the economy. Here you have the basic formula of campaign contributions in a nutshell: Powerful investment bank gives big money to candidate, needed reform requires candidate to cross said investment bank, candidate pussies out and finds way to be gone at the moment of truth, candidate resurfaces later in arms of aforementioned investment bankers.
"Obama's absence on oil speculation was eerily reminiscent of his previous decision to change his mind about giving retroactive immunity to telecom companies for spying on Americans. Obama withdrew his pledge to filibuster the immunity bill right around the time the Democrats announced that AT&T would be sponsoring the Democratic convention. So no filibuster on retroactive immunity from the top Democrat — but conventiongoers in Denver will get tote bags emblazoned with the AT&T logo. So that's something.
"Look, we all knew this was coming. Once Obama vanquished Hillary Clinton, it was inevitable that his campaign would start roping in the Clinton moneymen for the fall confrontation with McCain. Among those snagged by Obama were Iranian millionaire and former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Hassan Nemazee, venture capitalist Alan Patricof and the touchingly plugged-in Wall Street power couple Maureen White (First Boston) and Steven Rattner (Morgan Stanley). Rattner and White, the former chief fundraiser for the DNC, are longtime friends of the Clintons; she quit the DNC in 2006 to build Hillary's war chest, while he backed Joe Lieberman against Ned Lamont and flirted with a Mike Bloomberg presidential run. Such are the people who are now whispering in Obama's ear.
"Over the summer, the Obama camp has relentlessly pushed the notion that its record fundraising is mainly the result of small online donations. The first presidential candidate to raise so much money that he could afford to eschew the spending limits that would be imposed if he accepted federal matching funds, Obama claims that he opted out of public funding so that he could have a campaign 'truly funded by the American people.' And indeed, he has a record number of small donors, with some 45 percent of his campaign cash coming from contributions smaller than $200.
"Which is a great percentage — but it's only eight points better than John Kerry in 2004 and only 14 points better than George Bush that same year. In truth, Obama is still raising tons of money from big corporate donors. In June alone, as Obama was raking in more than $30 million from small donors, he also bagged $6 million in a single fundraiser at Ethel Kennedy's home in Virginia and another $5 million at an event in Hollywood. But time and time again, you see Obama aides boasting about how the day of the big-dollar donor is over. 'More people are involved, and I think that necessarily dilutes the impact of any individual — which is probably a good thing,' one prominent Obama supporter recently declared. This staunch champion of the small donor happened to be none other than James Rubin, son of former Goldman Sachs co-chairman Bob Rubin.
"Obama's decision to embrace Clinton's moneymen coincided with his decision to attend a public forum on economic policy with an A list of Clinton-era economic advisors, including Rubin and Corzine. 'The message is that he's going to be a friend to Wall Street, just as Bill Clinton was a friend to Wall Street,' says Pollin. 'Wall Street will want to be at the head of the table.'
"By now it should be clear what type of service Wall Street will demand. The financial disaster dumped on us by eight years of Bush's mismanagement has left America with the prospect of short-term solutions in the form of massive government bailouts, and long-term solutions in the form of reform and regulation. A big chunk of the $1 billion in cash that will be spent on the presidential race this year represents Wall Street's desire to make sure that both candidates can be counted on to make the short-term bailouts large and passionate, and the reforms gentle and halfhearted. 'They want to make sure there's socialism when they need it — bailouts — and capitalism when they need that,' says Pollin....
"The point is that politicians are intensely loyal to the people who give them money — and not anywhere near as loyal to the promises they've made to suckers like us. No matter who's in the White House, the direction of the government has remained remarkably stable. Clinton's treasury secretary, Rubin, was a Goldman Sachs man; Henry Paulson, the current secretary under Bush, is also a Goldman Sachs man. It'll probably be a Goldman man again next year. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. In sickness or in health, the faces may change, but the money remains. 'It's not an accident that both administrations picked for leading economic advisers people from Goldman Sachs,' says Pollin."
I should interject here that while William Geithner is not strictly a "Goldman Sachs man," his mentors all were and his top aides are. Robert Scheer's comments on the Geithner-Goldman Connection can be read here~~~
But back to Taibbi~~~
"The really distressing thing about all of this is the signal it sends to Americans. Goldman Sachs posted a record profit of $11 billion last year, much of it from betting against the subprime mortgage market they themselves helped to fuck up. That little energy exchange Goldman set up, the ICE, made a profit of $240 million last year, as gas prices skyrocketed. It may suck to be you right now, but all that pain isn't so bad if you are a big oil speculator.
"When you live in million-dollar Manhattan townhouses and make billions in profits betting on the pain of the ordinary foreclosed homeowner, you shouldn't get to run around on TV with the prospective president on your arm. You should be hung by your balls. But that's not the way it works, and despite what you might have heard about 'change,' it probably never will be.
"For all the excitement that Barack Obama has garnered, and all the talk about a new day in Washington, it would be tragic if the real legacy of his election victory was to finally expose the essentially unchanging, oligarchic nature of our political system. It's the same old story: Money talks, and bullshit walks. And don't be surprised if we're the ones still walking after November."
The entire article still can be accessed here~~~
I hope you noticed mention of ICE in Taibbi’s research. Tuesday night, on NPR’s Fresh Air, the New York Times’ economic analyst Gretchen Morgenson mentioned that ICE probably will be Treasury’s choice to be central to regulation of derivatives. In her column on June 1st, she wrote,
"Analysts say that because major banks that deal derivatives are so closely affiliated with ICE, they could seek to have many of the products classified as 'customized' — the only category that would keep them off regulators’ radar screens under Mr. Geithner’s proposal.
"This worries Mr. (Tom) Harkin, the Iowa Democrat, whose constituents include agricultural concerns that want better oversight of trading.
"This is needed, he said, to 'add openness, transparency and integrity in futures trading to rebuild the financial system.' Letting 'customized' derivatives — like many credit-default swaps — trade without detailed disclosure is a way to keep regulators in the dark, he said.
"Mr. Harkin said Mr. Geithner visited the Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill three weeks ago. At that meeting, Mr. Harkin said, he challenged Mr. Geithner to 'define customized swaps.' Mr. Harkin said the Treasury secretary told him he would have to get back to him." (scroll down to the column just above Krugman’s)
If you’re interested in what Taibbi is up to these days, given that his Campaign series concluded (with him exhausted) you can check out a number of blogs and online writings that he continues, along with TV appearances now. Chief among his blogs is at Smirking Chimp, and take a look especially at his entry for Monday in response to a proposal in the Wall Street Journal to "enshrine" Henry Paulson as a "national hero."
Brother, can you spare some change I can believe in?


Quinty said...


jazzolog said...

Simon Johnson may reframe one's thinking with a few sentences like this~~~

"Of course, the U.S. is unique. And just as we have the world’s most advanced economy, military, and technology, we also have its most advanced oligarchy.
"In a primitive political system, power is transmitted through violence, or the threat of violence: military coups, private militias, and so on. In a less primitive system more typical of emerging markets, power is transmitted via money: bribes, kickbacks, and offshore bank accounts. Although lobbying and campaign contributions certainly play major roles in the American political system, old-fashioned corruption—envelopes stuffed with $100 bills—is probably a sideshow today, Jack Abramoff notwithstanding.

"Instead, the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system. Once, perhaps, what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. The banking-and-securities industry has become one of the top contributors to political campaigns, but at the peak of its influence, it did not have to buy favors the way, for example, the tobacco companies or military contractors might have to. Instead, it benefited from the fact that Washington insiders already believed that large financial institutions and free-flowing capital markets were crucial to America’s position in the world."

If you watch the Bill Moyers Journal ever, like me you may have encountered Mr. Johnson in the past few months as a featured guest. The paragraphs above are from a long article, entitled "The Quiet Coup" in last month's Atlantic Monthly. It's probably not at the newsstand anymore, so we may be forgiven for finding it here~~~

Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, was the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund during 2007 and 2008. He blogs about the financial crisis at, along with James Kwak, who also contributed to this essay.

The blog mentioned there is a good way to keep up with Simon Johnson's impressions and travels. Yesterday morning he posted this~~~

"The wave of 'reforms' this fall will likely not solve anything. But this is not the end of attempts to better regulate the functioning of finance and to make sure it can never again run us into a crisis that results in doubling the national debt. What we are looking at now is just the beginning of a 5 or 10 year struggle for real change in the structure of economic and political power around finance in the United States."

The 25 comments that follow that entry are from some pretty knowledgeable people and reflect the kind of serious doubt the Obama administration is beginning to accumulate. I hope someone in the White House is paying attention!

Quinty said...

Here's an excerpt from one of my novels, In the Land of the Dacks, for you to chaw on, if so inclined. It deals with all this stuff and hopefully is thought provoking....... The scene takes place in a penal colony in Dackland where our here, a young American, skeptically questions his Dack host.....

For technical reasons it has been cut up into several posts..... (I can understand if the length puts you off.)

"What is this Communal Capitalism of yours?" I finally asked. "What is this system you're always talking about? I never heard of it before. And what makes it so superior to the American way?"
I was already certain this would be something basically theoretical and unworkable. Fundamentally preposterous, in short, and had already begun to condescend to this system which I had never heard of. After all, it seemed limited only to this tiny country of the Dacks, and hadn't made any worldwide inroads.
"Very well," Fisch seriously smiled, shifting his physical position. "I will explain it to you. Perhaps I may even convert you? Ha ha. Do you think I can?" His eyes were quite gleeful as he asked this, as if he had read my mind.
"Maybe," I politely answered, not believing of course he could. Wondering if my face had given me away?
"Professor Noah Strongtree, my mentor at the university, offered the world a route out of the modern economic dilemma and it deserves attention and respect. It is an alternative to the competing systems which dominate the world."
"I'm listening." Well into my second rum I could have listened to anything now, even another cockamamie assault on my world. "Go ahead, I'm game," I said. "Please tell me what this economic system is all about."
"Look. In your modern America, in your own Capitalist wonderland, your giant corporations constantly portray themselves as great benefactors, as leaders of human progress sensitive to the public good. They promise great wealth and power to anyone who can join them, to those who 'can win the game,' as you put it. Let us go back, then, to the basic roots of your Capitalist superpower. Let us examine the modest origins from which it inexorably expanded and grew. The little stalls and stands in primitive marketplaces where simple tradespersons sold their wares and goods, hoping, some of them, to become rich. This simple desire to engage in trade to benefit oneself is a very fundamental desire, a basic human activity. And an aggressive, enterprising Capitalist can always discover innovative means to better himself. For Capitalism permits the free and unbounded expression of this great acquisitive energy. Do you follow?"
"I see what you're saying, sure," I said, sipping from my chilled glass of powerful rum. Yes, there greedy people out there. But not everyone is greedy, I thought. The few don't necessarily ruin it for the many. Could Fisch see this basic logic?
"Capitalism, therefore, is the economic system of the lowest common denominator. That is why it has been so successful. Any idiot can be a Capitalist and many Capitalists are idiots. All over the world millions upon millions of eager and ambitious entrepreneurs daily take their chances hoping for success, to eventually become wealthy and powerful. Some claw their way to the top, others fall by the wayside crushed by many overwhelming heartless realities. But there are always new aspirants prepared to take their places. Capitalism has always been open to anyone willing to take a chance, play the game. Capitalism invites innovation and rewards hard work and ruthless competition. It rewards the most cunning, the best players, the most ruthless. Would you not agree?"

Quinty said...

I shrugged and noncommittally nodded. A cancer spreading across the Earth? There has always been a malaise, I thought, lurking just beneath the overall surface of things. That, I thought, should be apparent, as well as the inspiration for many religious and philosophical debates. But, frankly, I didn't know one way or another which way the world was actually heading. Or what our future would be. All I knew now is that I had been entirely cut off from nearly all of it.
Fisch continued on his line of thought: "All other advanced economic systems have been utopian. They rely on human goodwill and intelligence, a formula guaranteed to fail. That is why Capitalism, as the economic system of the lowest common denominator, has been so successful. There are no natural constraints upon it. It encourages and rewards aggressiveness and fierce competition, what you in America define as rugged individualism, and freedom, true freedom, the freedom, finally, to become rich and powerful. The basis for your white bread Capitalism."
Fisch paused, inquisitively eyeing me. Did he wonder if I understood, agreed? If I would interrupt or object? But I remained quiet, listening. Drinking my rum. I was almost accustomed by now to his slights.
"On the other hand, Communism requires the state to control all the means of production. This inevitably leads to stagnation, inefficiency, deep corruption. Workers are offered a safe sinecure and fail to produce. Since the benefits of greed are denied they lapse into a cynical indifference. They have no incentive, no future, no true creative horizons. The only way up is through the bureaucracy and this inevitably leads to more incompetence and corruption. For bureaucracies reward naked ambition at the expense of integrity, true ability, and creativity. In fact, creativity is seen as a threat by the incompetents on the way up. Would you not agree?"
"I know nothing about civil service."
"Yes, Marxism was a brilliant nineteenth century analysis of the predatory and ruthlessly manipulative nature of Capitalism. Its followers, though, corrupted it, and destroyed millions of lives in order to obtain their ideal. But no system which requires millions of lives is worth the expenditure."
"Yes," I murmured. You would get no argument out of me over that one, I thought. "Sure, Communism is pretty evil."
"So we have had two fundamental economic systems in our modern era, both, in their own ways, based upon exploitation. Democratic Socialism is a humane way out of the dilemma, the two competing systems. It offers freedom and dignity to the individual while providing for the overall needs of society. But a constant tension between man's natural acquisitiveness and society's broader needs thwarts this logical system. Socialism is fragile, for man's selfish greed and desire for power are constantly undermining it. It is another system requiring goodwill and intelligence. That is why the welfare states of Europe, and of the rest of the world, too, may finally loose out to Capitalism, the system of the lowest common denominator, openly accommodating, as it does, a far greater mass of humanity, promoting and unleashing greed. And as we know men are willing to die over that."

Quinty said...

Fisch paused an instant, staring at me as if to see if I still followed, how I was reacting. If I would begin to argue with him. Go ahead, I thought, I'm listening, I'm listening, and sipped again from my rum.
"I see Communal Capitalism, as Professor Noah Strongtree so beautifully, eloquently, described it so long ago within our late lamented academic lecture hall, as a way out of these fundamental dilemmas. It is a system which doesn't impede businessmen and merchants from becoming rich. It encourages trade! And even supports and promotes the entrepreneurial spirit, for free trade is an expression of democracy too. And no one should deny a merchant his innate dignity and worth, his freedom, if you will. No one should attempt to thwart his humanity and basic nature. In our modern era intellectuals and artists have always looked down upon the merchant class, the bourgeoisie. And Socialism, as an economic and social system, also reflects that aristocratic contempt. It rebukes and scorns the vulgar materialism of the middle and upper classes. It rebukes greed and selfishness as if its own moral and intellectual superiority were a self-evident, conclusive argument. As if greed and selfishness alone were proofs why Socialism is superior. But any philosophy which runs contrary to human nature cannot succeed. Man's basic nature must be taken into account and utopian schemes are always bound to fail, no matter how noble and shining their aspirations. And though their utopian nobility may attract numerous dreamers, a majority of the intellectuals and artists, they are sustained only by beautiful ideas, mere ideals, which humanity, in its mass, may even pay lip service to, but will daily ignore in its own strivings to better itself."
I nodded my head, silently agreeing. What he said made sense, I thought. What's more, the rum was also swiftly rising now to my head.

Quinty said...

"But beautiful ideas may eventually come into their own too," Fisch continued. "Listen to me carefully. Yes, there is such a thing as human progress. The earliest democracy, as expounded in Ancient Greece, was thoroughly utopian and idealistic in nature and inevitably failed. But that primitive system's noble sentiments still live on today and actually contained, back then, the seeds for our own advanced forms of democracy, a worldly democracy which recognizes human frailty with its numerous checks and balances. Communal Capitalism, John, is another step on the road of that journey. It merely expands your own Bill of Rights, attempting to finish the job your Founding Fathers, the radicals and revolutionaries of their age who hoped for a fairer and just world, began. By unleashing the truth it first recognizes human nature and then codifies the strict and fair standards of society."
"How does this thing stick together," I interrupted. "How is it different from other idealistic systems. I mean, I don't quite see what you're getting at. What would prevent the greediest and most powerful from eventually just taking over?"
"A good question. Yes, it too is vulnerable to an even lower common denominator than the acquisitive spirit. To violence and militarism and war. There are always threats to any system. For no one can check humanity in its lowest widespread folly. If Communal Capitalism contains an artificial element which doesn't surrender to the acquisitive spirit it is in demanding that the basic needs of society must be met. These are all brought to the surface. That the law must be obeyed. And that no one may trample on the rights of others. Express your entrepreneurial spirit, we say. Employ all your energies to better yourself! Fine! That is the way you are! We do not want to stand in your way. But you may not enrich yourself at the expense of others. For what Communal Capitalism does is put all the facts on the table, openly speaks truth about the realities, recognizing them, and establishes a system of laws, checks and balances, if you will, which safeguard the overall rights of society. The golden rule of the Communal Capitalist is that an individual may not enrich himself at the expense of the community."
But I thought I saw a hole in his argument. "If man is greedy, and always seeking power, then how would your system contain greed and power. How would you prevent this just society from being subverted by aggressive selfish Capitalists?"
"With the truth," Fisch said, his face beaming.
He appeared now as if he were sharing a great transcendent revelation with me. As if openly airing this philosophy of his made him enormously happy. "With the truth. The power of truth. That is the beauty of the Communal Capitalist system. For it calls a spade a spade. It openly brings out the realities. Euphemisms, regarding social conduct, double-speak, as your great English poet George Orwell so brilliantly put it, would cease to exist. For society would demand its basic rights through the truth. And within that glorious context all social conduct would be judged. Our constitution, building upon your American constitution, the Bill of Rights, would install a system which recognizes predatory and unfair behavior. It would cut through the fog bank of obfuscation and double-speak to pure truth and reality. And upon this sound moral basis would judge any entrepreneur's greed as 'Overreach.' Overreach would become the great crime, the cardinal sin against society. Those judged of Overreach would be severely penalized. For it would be imperative in a Communal Capitalist society to protect everyone's, absolutely everyone's, fundamental rights."

Quinty said...

"You think truth has that much power?"
"Yes. I do. In any modern Capitalist society, any rigid, top down system, or authoritarian state, the truth is always the first casualty, the great enemy of the Overreacher. For truth truly is a cleansing and clarifying fire. Tear down the walls of obfuscation and those numerous self-serving lies which prop up an Overreacher dissolve. For no Overreacher can justify himself unless evil finally becomes a positive moral cause. Yes, Communal Capitalism makes a fundamental correction to that modern liberal elitism which has so disdained the materialism of the bourgeoisie. Rather than fight that materialism it embraces it, accepts it as a natural expression of human nature. But no one may ever Overreach. This most fundamental of ideals still remains. For if a system can not at least depend upon a very minimum of human decency then there is no hope for us."
"No hope for us?"
"No hope for us."

Quinty said...

This morning's news announced Obama will speak on Wednesday to lay out his new regulatory scheme.

I think we will probably learn much and how serious he is about re-regulation from this speech. I doubt he is as corrupt as Taibbi claims. Or at least hope so.

But one thing appears to be clear. (The lack of declarative certainty in that sentence reflects my own uncertainty.) Obama is a methodic and patient operator. His critics, the media, and punditocracy, tend to often be not: jumping upon one piece of the structure he's building as it appears as if it were conclusive, expressing the whole story.

If this regulatory system he proposes is weak then (I suppose) the day of the bubbles, busts, and booms are not over. And the American people, to put it simply, will be screwed.

jazzolog said...

Thanks to Quinty for keeping this thread more than a little alive with excerpts from his novel. Professor Emeritus of History (OU) Bob Whealey offered a customarily interesting reply to concerns about the financial "industry"~~~

"I found Simon Johnson's article very convincing on economics. Thanks for
sending it.

"The financial crisis is at base a moral crisis. A majority of the American
people are still looking for something for nothing, without working.
Johnson does not go far enough. We now have casino capitalism.

"Obama can not do much in Washington about the banks. He is surrounded by
too many embezzlers and frauds. He personally has no experience in banking.
What is good about Johnson is that he puts his finger on the sins of
Bernacke who can not be fired. Obamba will probably get re-elected even if
the financial melt down gets worse because there is a total vacuum among
Republicans among Senators. A Republican governor unknown at this point
would be the Republican's Party's best bet.

"Strickland could begin cleaning up Ohio by a forthright statement condemning
any form of casinos and their connection to the Mafia. There were some
naive students collecting signatures a couple of weeks ago to put a
referendum on the November Ballot. I asked them how much pay do the get
per hour. Answer $9. I told two of them, that they were working for an
immoral outfit. I pretended to be slightly insulted to even be asked to
sign such a petition."

To Bob I'll comment the Republicans could get themselves together fast. They're good at that. BUT if the Libertarians can find a younger, convincing candidate, watch out. They can invade the game from the stands and turn us even more upside down than we already are.

There are 3 interesting articles online this morning about finances and Obama thus far. Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers announced in yesterday's Washington Post that a proposal of changes to the status quo of banks and Wall Street is coming this week.

Tom Englehardt took a crack at summing up these first months of the Obama presidency and, like all of us, finds much wanting.

And Bill Maher helps us laugh through our disappointments. Caution: this is a comedy bit, not reasoned analysis.,0,7966784.story

jazzolog said...

I misspelled Engelhardt up there. Apologies to him and his great followers.

Quinty said...

I'm not too surprised by this transformation. The question is, how transformed are they truly? (See below.)

Let's not forget, though, the Congress will write the regulations. That includes Republicans and Democrats. If the Republicans and Blue Dogs are at all like my governor, a Republican, here in Rhode Island, they will continue to believe deregulation and tax cuts will bring the economy into true harmony with the music of the spheres.

This is still very much a work in progress, with many chefs shoving to get to the pot. Here's Robert Scheer speaking on the subject. (Which will clear up my first paragraph.)

Published on Wednesday, June 17, 2009 by
Obama's Economic Misfits Finally Get It

by Robert Scheer

Now they tell us.

On Monday, two men with considerable responsibility for enabling the banking meltdown confronted the error of their ways. Not directly, of course, for accountability is hardly the mark of either Lawrence Summers, the top White House economic adviser, or Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Their careers have long been fueled by error. Summers was one of the leading prophets of radical financial deregulation in the Clinton administration. And Geithner, as head of the New York Fed, looked the other way during Wall Street's collapse and then responded by opening wide the spigot of taxpayer dollars to resuscitate Citigroup and AIG.

What they wrote this week in a joint Op-Ed article in The Washington Post is a condemnation of the Wall Street shenanigans they once abetted and celebrated. I hope their apparent sudden conversion to common sense indicates the seriousness of the banking regulation plan that President Obama will present to Congress today.

Sorry, this fool site won't accept a lengthy entry. The url above will connect you to the full piece if you're interested in seeing it.

jazzolog said...

"The banks are made of marble
with a guard at every door."
Anybody know that old protest song? Obama looks good in marble, no doubt about it. Fortunately Frank Rich keeps after his playing along with Wall Street~~~

...A tip-off to what was coming appeared in a Washington Post op-ed article that the administration’s two financial gurus, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, wrote to preview their plan. “Some people will say that this is not the time to debate the future of financial regulation, that this debate should wait until the crisis is fully behind us,” they wrote by way of congratulating themselves on taking charge.
Who exactly are these “some people” who want to delay debate on the future of regulation? Not anyone you or I know. Most Americans were desperate for action and wondered why it was taking so long. The only people who Summers and Geithner could possibly be talking about are the bankers in their cohort who helped usher us into this disaster in the first place. Both men are protégés of one of them, Robert Rubin, the former wise man of Citigroup.

Quinty said...

Rich is forever on the ball. The Times seems to have some of the best columnists.

Quinty said...

Will the bad news regarding unemployment last month support Krugman, Stiglitz, others? That the stimulus wasn't large enough? Or will it ultimately reinforce the Republican "liberal tax and spend" view among the voters?

In case anyone missed this here is Matt Taibbi on Goldman Sachs......


Quinty said...

Let's try that again.....