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…)
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 busin
esses 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.
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 suggestion
s to the richest 2% on how to spend their additional $83,000 next year if the Bush cuts are extended for them.
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 a
way 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!
“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 amoxil online
invitation-and-open-hand-to.html”>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”.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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!
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)
The bald headed VP said it 5 times during the meeting. Literally 5 times. He wants to outsource our engineering.
“The Indian bridge engineers will work while we are sleeping.”
This ass-clown in his fancy suit seems to think that this is a big advantage. The fact that this conflicts with their policy of keeping standard 8 am to 5 pm hours in the office at all time, must not have occured to this frantic self obsessed monster. This is also an obvious cost savings- what an advantage! with all this new american transportation money, let’s save a little & not hire the american worker (who would totally learn and then sell our technology- evil usa!).
“You see, if we hired an American company, they would surely steal our company secrets. But we trust the Indians because they signed the no compete claus.”
Why outsource the bridge engineering? Because they will take the liability if the bridge falls down. Chase them down in India.
In his mind, dick face bald headed VP, using the Indian workers bolstered his reputation as, slam it to em Sammy Saberfuk. Sammy made no mistake, if you cut employees, and intimidate them into a corner, eventually, the fear will drive them into productivity.
In the spirit of charts and graphs, here’s one that I’ve seen in various forms recently… the plummeting cliff you see represents the accelerating job losses (relative to the recent peak) in our current “recession”…
Perhaps this is a serious problem?
Meanwhile, the Senate jagoffs watered down the stimulus bill with lame tax cuts, to the tune of 42% of the overall stimulus package. Honestly, fuck tax cuts. Tax cuts don’t help me if I ain’t got a job. It’s been widely demonstrated that everyone and their mother is now hoarding cash and paying off debt. Which is great in the long term, but doesn’t do a damn thing for the people that have already gone over that cliff above. Here’s another chart:
Now here’s today’s failing infrastructure anecdote: the Maryland State Highway Administration’s main Headquarters complex was closed today due to a water main break outside the building. The exact same thing happened in roughly the same location all of one year ago. Ignoring the irony of the roads literally crumbling outside the DOT’s door, the main point I’d like to make is that all personnel had to stay home with Administrative Leave. This for an agency that recently forced workers to take at least two unpaid “furlough” days (more depending on salary) to help make up budget shortfalls. So there’s your “cost of doing nothing” right there.
As for “Aid to the States”, here’s Matt Yglasias discussing the hypocrisy of your “centrist” senator from Maine:
“This deal represents a victory for the American people,” said Senator Collins. “We came together to tackle the most immediate problem facing the nation. This package cuts $110 billion in unnecessary expenditures. These are not minor adjustments, but major changes. It contains robust spending on infrastructure to create jobs, $87 billion in assistance for states, and assistance to schools, especially for special education and Pell grants. This bill is not perfect, but it represents a bipartisan, effective and targeted approach to the crisis facing our country.”
Would you ever in a million years have guessed from this rhetoric that the primary change Collins and Nelson made was to implement big reductions in aid to states and, especially, in funding for education? I think not. In their rhetoric, Collins and Nelson preserved vital education funding and state assistance while eliminating various metaphorical animal products. Meanwhile, actual changes Collins and Nelson made include:
- Elimination of $25 billion in flexible funding for state governments.
- Cut $7.5 billion in funding for “state incentive grants” to help states make progress toward NCLB goals.
- Eliminated $19.5 billion in construction aid for schools and colleges.
- Reduced new aid for the Head Start early childhood program by $1 billion.
These clowns want to be commended for creating a bill that all parties can vote for. Bullshit. This is just cuts for the sake of cuts, economics be damned. I keep reading about 60 votes to prevent filibuster… why the dems wouldn’t simply call their bluff is beyond me. Republicans don’t have the stones to filibuster when the country is in such obvious need. Even their core constituency (big business) has had enough. Let them overplay their hand and be hounded into the caves like the Taliban they aspire to be.
Ok, one last fucking chart, this time from a Think Progress piece whose title says it all: Supporters Of $1.3 Trillion Bush Tax Cuts In 2001 Now Call $900 Billion Recovery Plan Billion ‘Too Much’
|Cost of package:||$1.35 trillion||$900 billion|
|Percent of Population Living In Poverty:||12.7%||17%|
|Americans Relying On Food Stamps:||17 million||Over 30 million|
I’m officially out of charts. Draw your own conclusions…
I know that seems “hard” to believe, but Boehner is taking exception to some of the spending in the bailout bill. Obama, on the other hand, wants to extend the package! No gimmicks or herbal supplements. Who could be against extending the package? These folks are the same members of congress who, without thinking twice, throw billions of dollars at the failure in Iraq and then get upset when Obama wants to invest in THIS country. Look around you. There are all kinds of potential public works projects. Our infrastructure is old and tired. And the civil engineers are crying for a bigger package than the one Obama is proposing. It’s time for Obama to stand up to the punks who want tax cuts for the rich (or make Bush’s tax cuts permanent). I can appreciate reaching out to the other side after eight years of being ignored by Bush, but on Nov 4th America chose Obama’s economic policy. Obama himself reminded us just the other day of exactly who won. Besides, as David Sirota points out, if you dilute the bailout bill with weak Republican ideas, and this causes it not to be effective, then Obama looks like he failed and the GOP may look a little more respectable-like.
In light of us pouring billions of dollars into the banks, so they can keep buying corporate jets and eventually ask for another bailout when they can’t collect on their moronic loans that they have written, I would like to take a look at the utterly stupid and hypocritical nonsense known as credit scoring.
I am not going to try to explain all the mumbo jumbo complexity of credit scores, but the hypocrisy part of this story is pretty simple. In theory the credit scoring system is supposed to keep banks from lending money to folks who can not pay it back. It supposed to be a measure of how credit worthy a person is. Instead, banks use it to charge a higher interest rate to folks who have had credit mishaps. In other words, the banks have said, “if you have financial problems, sure we’ll lend you the money, but we’ll charge you higher interest, and variable rates, that will actually make it more likely that you can not pay it back. Look at me. My name is jackass banker.”
A bank should have every right to decide HOW MUCH money they want to lend you, but why should they be able to penalize folks with higher interests rates? This is exactly the kind of process that has led to all these foreclosures. Am I right or am I right?
How about while we are bailing these jerks out, we reform this whole bogus system so that everyone gets a fair shot at a decent loan that they can afford to pay back?
Because I know how concerned you are about them keeping all twelve of their palaces…
In reality the drop in demand is a really troubling sign for all of us, but lets not think about that tonight.
….but what the hell, I have embed privileges now. And as far as I can see there are only four contributors to this blog….which is fine with me. This is my go-to site for news and comment.
Here is George Will taken to school by Paul Krugman on FDR and the New Deal. It’s great to watch this pompous ass looking over his shoulder. This Week is the only Sunday morning news show I can tolerate but it bugs me that George Will pretty much has free reign to make any outrageous commentary he desires and noone calls him on it. Well George, meet Mr. Krugman….
And here’s just a random nugget to keep things light. Gotta maintain that groovy post election vibe…
I was doing a little job seaching the other day and came across an environmental engineering position. Who is this handsome devil front and center?
As the Bush Administration winds down, the Big Money Boys have just about finished cleaning us out. Per Think Progress, CNBC has a nice chart detailing all the various bailout monies that’ve been lavished on corporate America… and the total is over 4 trillion dollars:
|Financial Crisis Balance Sheet|
|Government Entity||Sum in Billions of Dollars|
|(TAF) Term Auction Facility||900|
|Discount Window Lending|
|Loans to buy ABCP||76.5|
|(TSLF) Term Securities Lending Facility||225|
|(MMIFF) Money Market Investor Funding Facility||540|
|Commercial Paper Funding Facility||257|
|(TARP) Treasury Asset Relief Program||700|
|(FHA) Federal Housing Administration||300|
|Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac||350|
Allow me to ask a rhetorical question or twelve:
How did this happen? Was this economic crisis an accident? The cost of doing business? A simple but inevitable downturn on the great cycle of prosperity? An unfortunate confluence of economic forces, caused by the ripple effects of a far off butterfly, flapping its wings to the (temporary!) detriment of our glorious DOW?
Could this have been avoided? In other words, who the hell can we blame for this mess? Because for something to be avoidable, it must be knowable in advance. And if it was knowable, and there were people sounding the alarm, then it surely follows that there were those who heard that alarm and cynically ignored its warning.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Exhibit A: Peter Schiff. This video is a compilation of Peter’s greatest hits from 2006-2007, before the shit was even near the fan, when various cable outlets would routinely trot him out as the token pessimist to be ridiculed like the town simpleton in a medieval passion play. Watch in amazement as poor Peter’s clear-eyed prescience is rewarded with howls of derision from his fellow Fox News “analysts” (anal-cysts?).
When I saw the length of the video, I figured there was no way I’d watch to the end, and yet there was super genius Ben Stein braying like an ignorant jackass and I couldn’t look away.
Exhibit B is the remarkable true story of Steve Eisman, an investor who for years has been short selling all manner of stocks and bonds related to the the housing market, on the basis that the emperor has no clothes. [Note to you Fantasy Wieners, the article is written by noted Moneyball author, Michael Lewis.]
He and his team set out to find the smelliest pile of loans they could so that they could make side bets against them with Goldman Sachs or Deutsche Bank. What they were doing, oddly enough, was the analysis of subprime lending that should have been done before the loans were made [...]
“You have to understand this,” he says. “This was the engine of doom.” Then he draws a picture of several towers of debt. The first tower is made of the original subprime loans that had been piled together. At the top of this tower is the AAA tranche, just below it the AA tranche, and so on down to the riskiest, the BBB tranche—the bonds Eisman had shorted. But Wall Street had used these BBB tranches—the worst of the worst—to build yet another tower of bonds: a “particularly egregious” C.D.O. The reason they did this was that the rating agencies, presented with the pile of bonds backed by dubious loans, would pronounce most of them AAA. These bonds could then be sold to investors—pension funds, insurance companies—who were allowed to invest only in highly rated securities. “I cannot fucking believe this is allowed—I must have said that a thousand times in the past two years,” Eisman says.
Even if you have no idea about any of this (especially if you don’t) I recommend reading the whole piece. You come away with the distinct impression that high finance is nothing more than an elaborate Ponzi scheme.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote about the Money River (God Bless You Mr. Rosewater). How if you were lucky enough or smart enough, you could get one of the guardians to show you the river so that you yourself might “slurp”. I think nowadays the proper metaphor is not a river, but rather a Money Vortex – I’m just not sure if it’s a tornado, funneling money up and out of our pockets… or a swirling eddy, siphoning it down the drain. Nothing about the last 8 years has been an accident. Sure, there has been “collateral damage”, and that’s been regrettable. But in the end, everybody in charge got more or less what they wanted.
The question is, will they get what they deserve?
We’re all probably too pissed off to write about the bailout bait and switch right now, but its our job folks, we have to expose these things. Allow me to oversimplify Friday’s hearings like this: the Bush Administration does whatever the hell it wants. Plain and simple. In hindsight I’m surprised they even went through the trouble of getting congress to pass the bailout bill, except for the politics of it. But now that the Democrats went through the painful process of attaching strings, its nice to know that the Administration can just simply ignore them. Nobody’s surprised by these tactics, at least no one that’s been awake for the last 8 years. But this has to get filed away with the many other things that makes every American citizen who cares about, and has even a limited understanding of, our constitutional democracy want to puke their guts out. These people are scum. In the attached link, you’ll read a polite and eloquent rebuttal about buying mortgages. If you were paying attention you would have said, 55 million? That sounds like every mortgage in the entire country. Well, you’d be right, it is. So what kind of evil jackass would twist things around like that? Yes the question was rhetorical…and no there aren’t 55 million foreclosed homes in America. He was actually saying, ‘what do you want us to do, buy every mortgage in America?’. After that statement I’m thinking his balls on a platter would be an appropriate response…well worth the ~$2,500 a person the bailout is costing.
So this Thanksgiving, when my grandmother or uncle start talking about how the bailout is socialism and we’re turning into commies, I’m going off the rails, despite my great love for my unfortunately misguided relatives. I’m sure you have a few yourself. Future posts will add to this list, but for those of us concerned with totalitarianism, please add this to the category ‘ignore the laws passed by congress’. Was there a signing statement I missed?
Lots of good news at the ballot box last week, as it seems that in addition to all those other wars, we’re now losing the Drug War too. The reefer reform lobby saw victory on 10 of 11 statewide ballot initiatives, proving once again that the people know better than Uncle Sam when it comes to Aunt Mary.
Congratulations to Massachusetts, which is set to become the 13th state to decriminalize the reef. Interestingly enough, Michigan became the 13th state to legalize so-called medical marijuana. I say interestingly, because lucky number 13 has long been the numerical symbol for marijuana… and Massachusetts and Michigan both begin with “M”, which is the 13th letter of the alphabet… Don’t get me started on the legend of the G-13… (perhaps Sunshine could chime in on the comments?)
Aw, dude, that cloud has a vein in it… and it’s bleeding on me, man! The cloud is bleeding on me! Wait, go back…
Let’s review that list of states that have decriminalized the maryjane (that is to say, possession of small amounts of marijuana is now a fine rather than a jailable offense): Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, and Mississippi… what’s missing from that list of “M” states? God damn right, Maryland. If Missouri and Montana turn before Maryland, so help me… (The remaining states that round out the 13 are Alaska, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Oregon.)
But honestly, why are we just nibbling at these trifling, archaic reefer laws? Last I checked, we’re staring down the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. Estimates about the value of the United States’ domestic reefer crop vary anywhere from $4 to $25 billion (source: Reefer Madness, by Eric Schlosser, 2003). In fact, here’s a nice little passage from that book:
In 1997 the Austrian economist Friedrich Schneider calculated the rise of America’s “shadow economy” by tracing changes in the demand for currency. According to Schneider, in 1970 the size of the underground was between 2.6 and 4.6 percent of America’s gross domestic product (GDP). By 1994 it had reached 9.4 percent of the GDP – about $650 billion.
Granted, reefer only accounts for a small portion of our black market. But still, let’s get it out in the open! I find it interesting that in 1933, Congress got the ball rolling to repeal Prohibition just as FDR was coming into office. That year was dedicated to jump-starting the economy by any means necessary… Sound familiar? Don’t forget, booze had been outlawed by the 18th Amendment, so rolling that back with another constitutional amendment required ratification by each state, no small feat. By comparison, decriminalizing ganja, which is not explicitly outlawed by the Constitution, should be a breeze.
How bout that price of gas, eh? I actually filled up an empty tank of gas for less than $40 for the first time in I-can’t-remember.
I’m sure this is nothing more than simple market forces at work… I guess we’ll know after next week.
* * * Update * * *