Category Archives: economy

The TPP is not for me?

No, its not a jobs bill, it won’t help us compete with China and it won’t reduce the trade deficit. As Joseph Stiglitz notes during his great interview with Democracy Now this week, the administration’s hypocrisy selling this abomination is boundless.  The TPP is of, by, and for the corporate oligarchy and it will make things much worse for working class Americans…check out the interview, great stuff

Joseph Stiglitz, Democracy Now 10-15


To Whom Do We Owe This Debt Of Gratitude?

While George Bush was busy trying to recall why he shat his pants during the 9/11 attacks, perhaps he should have been explaining how he turned Clinton’s surplus into a record deficit.  This NY Times opinion piece  contains a chart that gives a clear breakdown of the costs.  Contrary to what some in Congress would have you believe, the big bad health care reform plan is not the problem.  In fact, it is the smallest cost in the chart.  The biggest?  Yup, you guessed it, the Bush Tax Cuts…bigger than all of Obama’s costs and projected costs combined!  Cutting health care, education and other domestic spending will not solve the problem…..”you can’t close the door, when the wall’s caved in” or sumpin’ like that.  (BTW – Happy Birthday Jerry…)

National Public Radio, Not Another Penny

This is a call for anyone still giving money to NPR, please stop. If you want to send money to support real journalism, try the Nation, MoJo, Harpers or one of the few remaining progressive radio shows like Jimmy's favorite Seder or Hartmann. Even if you listen to the 18 hours per day of classical music programming on NPR, the following story should be more than enough to provoke you to send those checks elsewhere get an IPOD.

Thursday morning before the House vote on extending the Bush tax cuts, NPR ran non-stop Republican propaganda. Marketplace ran this interview with Republican Representative Dave Camp without any opposing viewpoints, of course, but with lots of cheerleading. The points made in this interview are so unbelievably preposterous, I almost puked up my sausage-egg-and-cheese-on a sesame bagel while driving down Route 1. The points are summarized below:

1. The economy is in terrible shape and we need to change direction. Therefore it is an imperative that we do not change the tax policy that we have been using for the last 8 years. Because it has worked so well. Good point Dave.

2. The pre-Bush era tax rate above an income level of $250,000 is devastating for small businesses, because “half” of such income comes from small businesses. Of course, as you know from previous posts and this direct reporting done back in July no more than 3% of small businesses are impacted by the rate above $250,000.

This numbers game reminded me of a classic line in the Naked Gun about Nordberg's chances of surviving after getting shot like 40 times. Its about 1/3 of the way into this clip, which I just had to post in honor of the passing of Leslie Nielsen this week.

So “small business” is half of the reported income above $250k, but that's only pertains to 3% of small businesses. Just like Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of surviving, but there's only a 10% chance of that. Makes you think of the old saying: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Of course, I do not expect anyone on NPR to ask questions about the source of stats quoted or how they were arrived at. (They used to, like 10 years ago, which is the last time I sent them a check, though I still get a letter from them monthly asking for cash.) But what happened next was what really stunned me. The very next segment at the top of the hour led off with a reference to 'Mitch McConnell's confidence that the senate will extend tax cuts for all Americans'. There was no rational discussion of the facts, just that statement, straight from the Republican's message machine. I felt like I was listening to Fox Radio.

Tough Choices Ahead, G Class or AMG Roadster?

Not taking to lame duck status very well, Grayson continues to put things into perspective like only he can. His take on the debate about continuing the failed “trickle down economics” experiment? He wants us to make suggestions to the richest 2% on how to spend their additional $83,000 next year if the Bush cuts are extended for them.

Submit your ideas!

The Mendacity of Hope for the End of Trickle Down Economics

Summary of my reaction to the Democrat's actions over the last 18 months: OK. OK. Oh no. Shit. Goddammit. Now that they are lame ducks can they do one thing right and put an end to trickle down economics?

Folks, we all know how disappointing the last two years have been. Shameless theft of this title is from a brilliant but thoroughly depressing summary of our country's political reality. You should definitely Click to see a preview of this book But that only makes this site more important, as our founder has recently pointed out. So, let's follow along with what should be easy for the lame ducks to get right: bring back the personal income tax rate to the wealthiest among us to where it was under Clinton.

You know the chatter…NPR said ALL the Bush tax cuts will most certainly be extended at least for a year or two. Fox said the same, Newsweek said the same… I especially liked to hear our Maine Senators put away their 'Rino' tusks for a moment to conflate small business tax cuts (which everyone is in favor of) with maintaining the historically low tax rate for the wealthiest among us. So they will hold hostage making all the other cuts permanent for the wealthiest 2%?

Why?, we ask. Well, I'm not thinking this is a rich folk country club taking care of their own type of thing. And previous posts have brilliantly shown the history of the upper bracket rate, the amount of money at stake and the impact on balancing the budget. Oh wait, that's it! The old 'end around' to bankrupt the treasury so we'll have to roll back the New Deal because 'we can't afford it'. This is popular among our Teabagger friends. Has anyone heard where, exactly, they want the Federal Government to shrink? Defense? Hell no. This is the old 'two Santas' approach that Thom Hartmann likes to point out…you can have everything you want, and an amped up military to make you feel safe and secure, but you never have to pay for it!

Poor little rich boys

We can't let the people who've been hit the hardest by this recession, and who need to create the jobs that will get us out of it, foot the bill for the Democrats' two-year adventure in expanded government.” – Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Can't go to bed without pointing out the jackassedness of this comment by the ranking GOP Senator.  He is of course referring to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for fools earning over $250,000 a year.  Just let that sink in… “the people who've been hit the hardest by this recession“…

That's right, asshole.  Them rich folk done been hit so hard they can barely afford to pay the MARGINAL TAX ON ALL DOLLARS EARNED OVER $250,000.  Meanwhile, in the real world

Forty-four million people in the United States, or one in seven residents, lived in poverty in 2009, an increase of 4 million from the year before, the Census Bureau reported on Thursday.

The poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent — the highest since 1994 — from 13.2 percent in 2008.

Over the past two years these scumbag Senators have managed to thoroughly crush any delusions I once had about the possibility of national crisis giving birth to transformative change in this country. And I mean the good kind of change, not the teabag variety that is currently suffocating the last vestiges of moderation in the Republican party.  [Note to you Mainers – Olympia is next].

What I'm trying to say is, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts are the only thing I care about politically these days.  There's really nothing else on the horizon that's going to elicit more than indifference or disgust out of me.  The class divide gets greater every day and it's completely unsustainable for a healthy society.  I'll have to dazzle you with charts and graphs some other time, but for now I'll just say, NO MORE TAX CUTS FOR YOU RICH MOTHERFUCKERS.

Who am I kidding, here's a chart

What this says to me is, if the Democrats really feel the need to be total pussies about this, then they better at least give me a new marginal tax bracket at $500,000, which is where the real highway robbery begins to kick in.  Otherwise I don't want to hear any more bullshit about “deficit reduction”.

Shovel Ready

This story took place in Reefercake’s backyard. There is heavy traffic on this road and absolutely no shoulder, and kids are jumping off of it all summer long. Suprise, suprise, a kid got hit and is critical condition.

Something needs to be done, ie pedestrian bridge, and some of that stimulus money would do the trick. But this concept of shovel ready, is complete bullcrap, and that is probably why we hear that a lot of the money isn’t being spent as quickly as we would like…WTF is shovel ready, but a made up term? I guess the point being that we don’t want to do anything that requires planning or thought or design, we wouldn’t want to use our brains, we just want to send a bunch of guys out with shovels and “have at it!” Classic conservative anti-intellectual bullshit.

Reefercake is making a vow to get something done here, before my son reaches puberty…so we should be breaking ground on this one in 2015.

Teevee news I would watch

This is for all the Saturday morning InRoads monkeys out there…

Don’t know if anyone has been keeping track in the sidebar, but Matt Taibbi has opened up a floodgate of Goldman Sachs bashing, which I love of course.  To be fair, they’ve brought it on themselves, with their recent announcement of record bonus payments in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.  But Taibbi has made it mainstream to call them out for the swindlers they are.  Here’s all the must-read/watch pieces:

Taibbi: The Great American Bubble Machine

What you need to know is the big picture: If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain — an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.

Elliot Spitzer on Bloomberg teevee

More Taibbi: The Real Price of Goldman’s Giganto-Profits

Taken altogether, what all of this means is that Goldman’s profit announcement is a giant “fuck you” to the rest of the country. It is a statement of supreme privilege, an announcement that it feels no shame in taking subsidies and funneling them directly into their pockets, and moreover feels no fear of any public response. It knows that it’s untouchable and it’s not going to change its behavior for anyone. And it doesn’t matter who knows it.

Paul Krugman: The Joy of Sachs

The American economy remains in dire straits, with one worker in six unemployed or underemployed. Yet Goldman Sachs just reported record quarterly profits — and it’s preparing to hand out huge bonuses, comparable to what it was paying before the crisis. What does this contrast tell us?

First, it tells us that Goldman is very good at what it does. Unfortunately, what it does is bad for America.

Second, it shows that Wall Street’s bad habits — above all, the system of compensation that helped cause the financial crisis — have not gone away.

Third, it shows that by rescuing the financial system without reforming it, Washington has done nothing to protect us from a new crisis, and, in fact, has made another crisis more likely.

Then there’s the new scandal brewing involving the former employee who supposedly stole their software that has the ability to unfairly manipulate markets.  Interesting that Goldman would come forward with this info only after the software was released into the wild.  Surely they themselves never used it for nefarious purposes while it was still under their control!  What makes this story all the juicier is that prior to the news, Zero Hedge had been tracking Goldman’s “program trading” volume on the NYSE for months and became convinced that they were manipulating markets.  Possibly through “front-running”, in which, oh, say, they had a program that monitored their online client’s stock purchases.  Before letting a purchase through, Goldman would then pre-buy the stock themselves, then let the client’s buy happen, then sell their own recently bought shares, which would have appreciated in value by an infinitessimal amount over the previous microsecond.  Consider that Goldman’s online trading volume is twice as high as its nearest competitor.  Further consider that as speculation mounted, NYSE suddenly announced they would no longer issue their daily program trading reports that Zero Hedge was analyzing.  Cap that off with the twin announcements of rogue software and record bonuses, and I’m declaring it’s once again pitchfork and torch time.

Voluntary Regulation

This is a really long one, but if you have the time and are interested in the current state of water quality, check out this frontline clip:
Poisoned Waters
Bottom line, it may have been 36 years since creation of the EPA, but in that time we’ve only had two administrations interested in doing anything substantive toward sustainability (‘voluntary regulation’ is the common buzzword throughout each Republican administration), and Bill was pretty much Republican Lite. We’ve done a lot with respect to municipal waste, and are now considering the possible impacts of things we can barely measure like endocrine disruptors, while any industry with some clout hasn’t done a damn thing. So fish keep going belly up with regularity, and while over-fishing is a problem the health of aquatic life in many places is very bleak due to poor waste management practices. Happy belated Earth Day!

Class Warfare and AIG

Lots of hand-wringing out there about the 90% tax on bailout bonus money… to which I say…

Why don’t you take a flying fuck at a rolling donut?…

Set aside for a moment the fact that if AIG were a regular company, they would be in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings, with employees no longer receiving paychecks, much less bonuses.  Pretend, if you will, that AIG is not/was not a massive criminal enterprise engaged in fraudulent behavior only one step removed from Bernie Madoff.  The fact remains that the 10% take-home on a million dollar bonus is still $100,000.  Not too shabby!

The sense of entitlement from our ruling class is just appalling.  Here’s a graph from Ezra Klein that does a nice job of illustrating contemporary political and media opinion toward wealth.

The first thing to note: McCain has no business commenting on economic affairs. None. His conception of “rich” makes the $1.6 million earned by the top 0.1% seem reasonable by comparison. Somebody find him a Canasta game and get him off the national scene already. 

And yet, one hardly suspects that his views are unusual around the Senate.  And because rich folks aren’t in the business of taking money from other rich folks (that’s what the rubes are for), his colleagues are currently in the process of cutting the nuts out of the bonus tax, opting for 35% instead.  

I’ve got news for them: we already have that, it’s called the income tax.  You may not know this, but it already applies to the bonus money.  At least that’s how it works for the rest of us.  Maybe quit wasting everyone’s time on this?

Honestly, all I ask is that once they get past the grandstanding, if nothing else comes out of this economic fiasco, let it be the end of Wall Street business as usual.  Brad DeLong makes a great argument against the whole concept of the guaranteed bonus.  This paragraph was especially compelling:

The failure of the major institutions of Wall Street to adopt Silicon Valley compensation schemes in the 1980s and 1990s was always a great worry to regulators and policymakers. The strong view was that the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley knew what they were doing and were acting as prudent and responsible agents of their investors when they insisted on SVCS for their startups. So why didn’t the shareholders of the major banks do the same with their traders, quants, and strategists? The decisive argument in regulatory and policymaker bull sessions about this issue was that this was the shareholders’ business–that if the shareholders of these companies thought that there was good reason to elect board members and CEOs who did not impose SVCSs, the government should be cautious about stepping in. And the argument that “maybe the shareholders know of some good reason not to adopt SVCSs” no longer applies: we are the shareholders, we know of no reason, and we see no reason not to align the interests of our employees at AIG and at TARP-receiving companies with the long-run interests of the U.S. Treasury.

In other words, their license to steal is not a God-given birthright.  There are in fact other, better ways to incentivize corporate initiative (and part of that is to penalize failure). Granted, the Big Money Boys were riding high in the go-go 80’s, until junk bonds and the savings & loan scandal spawned the phrase “Die Yuppie Scum”. But the aftermath of those crises never resulted in the kind of institutional reforms that could prevent the rise of the over-leveraged shitstorm we see today.  

The point is, there has been ample opportunity in our recent history to reign in the greed train that is high finance, but the weasels always manage to slip the collar.  That’s what’s most disturbing about Treasury’s various bailout schemes (TARP, AIG, Citibank, etc).  The message seems to be that we’re going to do whatever it takes to restore these failed institutions.  But it’s not apparent that there will be any consequences for their failure (that is, not counting the consequence of putting the economy in a ditch for the rest of us).

Hey, Geithner, it’s official! They crashed the car! Now take away the keys! Krugman:

At every stage, Geithner et al have made it clear that they still have faith in the people who created the financial crisis — that they believe that all we have is a liquidity crisis that can be undone with a bit of financial engineering, that “governments do a bad job of running banks” (as opposed, presumably, to the wonderful job the private bankers have done), that financial bailouts and guarantees should come with no strings attached.

This was bad analysis, bad policy, and terrible politics. This administration, elected on the promise of change, has already managed, in an astonishingly short time, to create the impression that it’s owned by the wheeler-dealers. And that leaves it with no ability to counter crude populism.

Suddenly all the “Obama is a socialist” talk begins to make sense… Rather than being the failed electoral strategy it seemed at the time, perhaps big business saw their house of cards tumbling and decided to get out in front of “nationalization” by keeping pressure on Obama to make it the option of last resort, lest he reveal his “true” communist nature. Even though in a perfect world these banks would already be in receivership.

Who the fuck knows?  So long as Obama doesn’t let it stop him.  For a great article on the current state of the crisis and what needs to be done, be sure to read James Galbraith’s article, “No Return to Normal“.

And just to finish my earlier thought:

…why don’t you take a flying fuck at the MOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!

(with apologies to Kurt Vonnegut)