Monday, July 30, 2012

VOTER ID LAWS ... THE NEW POLL TAX?


Vote rigging and buying votes has always been a concern for democracies around the world. The human condition is such that gaining and denying access to power does strange things to people. This is why Republican led attempt to suppress the vote by claiming electoral fraud, and then calling for very specific voter ID cards (especially in the South), has become one of the key electoral issues of our day. While you stand a better chance of being hit by lightening than uncovering a case of voter fraud (it accounts for a paltry .0004 - .0007 percent of voting activity) the GOP also understand that about 5 million voters (mainly people of color, students, and seniors) would be adversely impacted by voter ID laws. This op-ed piece on voter ID laws shines a light on what Republicans are really up to. Simply put, it's voter suppression. This appeared in our local paper, the Bakersfield Californian, and was written by my good friend Milt Younger. Graphs are added. 
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Thursday, May 31 2012 11:05 PM

Politicians 'gaming' election by suppressing vote

By MILT YOUNGER
The "wake-up call" for me came in March. Before then, I wasn't paying a lot of attention to the move sweeping state legislatures across the country to pass laws restricting Americans' right to vote. I had just skimmed the top of news stories that reported "photo ID" was being required to vote.
What's the big deal? Doesn't everyone have a "photo ID"? Well, apparently not. And in some states, the photo ID that is required has to be just the "right type" of photo ID. 
But George Carroll of Aurora, Ohio, caught my attention in March, sounding the warning that one of Americans' most cherished rights is being threatened. 
Carroll is an 86-year-old World War II veteran who has lived in the same Ohio town for four decades. He has run his own business, Carroll Tire, since 1975.
Carroll is in declining health and unable to drive. He had a driver's license, but he allowed it to expire in January.
Carroll was driven to the polls to vote in the Ohio state primary election in March. He showed his VA medical identification card, which included his photo, to a poll worker, who rejected the ID because it did not include Carroll's address. The poll worker also rejected Carroll's expired driver's license. For voting purposes, IDs must be "valid," not expired. Incredibly, it made no difference that Carroll knew some of the poll workers, who could vouch for him.
The poll worker offered to let Carroll vote "provisionally," with Carroll's ballot being counted only after his right to vote was verified days later. By then, Carroll was exhausted and exasperated. He left the polls without voting.
"My beef is that I had to pay a driver to take me up there because I don't walk so well and have to use this cane and now I can't even vote," Carroll told reporters. "I had to stop driving, but I got the photo ID from the Veterans Affairs instead, just a month or so ago. You would think that would count for something. I went to war for this country, but now I can't vote in this country."
Increasingly restrictive voting laws -- many being passed in Southern states that spent a century denying blacks the right to vote -- are being hurriedly passed in advance of the November presidential election.



Proponents contend the goal is to fight "rampant" voter fraud. The problem is that there is no evidence of "rampant" voter fraud. Politicians are just targeting an imaginary problem with the "solution" being to prevent eligible voters from voting. The goal really is to influence election results.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reports that 25 percent of African-American voters do not have a valid government-issued photo ID, compared with 8 percent of whites. The center also found that 15 percent of voters earning less than $35,000 per year and 18 percent of young voters do not have such an ID.
Because women traditionally change their names when they marry or divorce, the Brennan Center reported than only 48 percent of women nationwide have access to birth certificates with their current legal name and only 66 percent have proof of citizenship with their current legal name. This makes it difficult for them to acquire the ID required for voting.
Viviette Applewhite, 93, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in May challenging Pennsylvania's new voter ID law. The Philadelphia woman is a former wartime "Rosie the Riveter" and civil rights worker, who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Georgia in the 1960s in the fight for black voting rights.
Although Applewhite says she has voted since 1960, when she cast her ballot for John F. Kennedy, the law Republican Gov. Tom Corbett signed in March requires her now to produce a photo ID, such as a driver's license, to vote.
Confined to a wheelchair, Applewhite does not drive. She does not have a driver's license. To obtain a free government photo ID, Applewhite must produce her birth certificate, which the state can't seem to locate. Other forms of photo ID were lost when Applewhite's purse was stolen.
Applewhite is one of 10 plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Among the others are three elderly women who say they cannot obtain necessary IDs because they were born during the Jim Crow era in the South, where states have no records of their birth.
And then we have the state of Florida, where elections officials have teamed up with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to ferret out "illegal voters."
The results, so far, have been reminiscent of the 2000 Florida debacle, where a company hired by the state mistakenly identified thousands of voters as "felons" and kicked them off the voting rolls. Many of these "felons" were law-abiding citizens. Embarrassingly for the state, some were even prominent citizens.
The newest scheme, where motor vehicle files are checked to determine citizenship, is yielding hundreds of "suspicious" voters. Maria Ginorio of Miami is one of them.
Ginorio is an immigrant from Cuba who became a U.S. citizen in 2009. Florida driver's licenses are issued for eight years. Ginorio obtained her license before she became a citizen.
In order to preserve her right to vote, Ginorio will have to go to the state's Division of Elections to document her status as an American citizen. But that's not possible. Ginorio is ill and homebound. Until this year, she has voted by absentee ballot.
"I'm not going to do anything about this," Ginorio told reporters. "I can't. I guess I won't vote anymore. I say this with pain in my heart, because voting is my right as a citizen."

These are just a few of the documented stories of Americans who are being deprived of their rights to vote because state legislatures are limiting access to the electoral process. Some of the rules might make sense, while others can't pass as "common sense." Consider Texas, where a law change axed many traditionally used documents from the ID requirement, but added a license to carry a concealed handgun to the "accepted" list.
The Beat Obama Committee, a political action committee registered with the Federal Elections Commission, has launched a fax campaign to urge Congress to pass a nationwide voter photo ID requirement. The committee's name leaves little doubt as to its motivation.
But a "national standard" that is written correctly just might do more to protect voting rights than to suppress them. No one denies the need to maintain the integrity of voting and assure only citizens are casting their votes. But the criteria used to do that must be fair and not aimed at denying the vote to minorities, women and young people in order to "game" the political system.
Milt Younger of Bakersfield is a longtime personal injury attorney and U.S. Army veteran.
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- Mark

Saturday, July 28, 2012

MITT THE CLUELESS ...

So Mitt Romney has made a fool of himself in England trying to show off his foreign policy credentials. After bragging about his supposedly secret meeting with MI6 (the British Secret Intelligence Service) and questioning Britain's preparedness for hosting the Olympic games (among other blunders) the verdict is in from across the pond. The British are saying that Mitt is offensive, "devoid of charm," and "worse than Sarah Palin." Ouch.

But at least he can see Iran from Syria, I think. Check this out ...

During the Republican primaries in February Mitt Romney said that Syria is Iran's "key ally" and then claimed that Syria is also Iran's route to the sea (start at 1:30:15). Huh? Has Mitt ever seen a map of Syria and where it lies in relation to the Mediterranean? Hey, I have an idea. Let's take a look ...



So, yeah, in the modern era Syria has over 100 miles of Mediterranean coastline. And the last time I checked the Mediterranean has been the route to the sea(s) since, well, forever!

Take a look at a map of the Mediterranean when the Romans ran the show (green represents conquered Roman territories) ...



If you notice, the Syrians actually had access to the sea when the Romans dominated the region. Does Mitt know something about the Mediterranean being closed off to the Syrians in the modern age that we don't? But let's forget about this for the moment.

The real story here is that Syria does not even have a border with Iran ...



Mitt insults a key ally before a global event and doesn't know how to read a map. Sigh ... There's not much to say here except to remind everyone what happened the last time we elected a guy who had no clue about the outside world, apart from how to make money for himself and his friends.

- Mark 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

CLUELESS ABOUT ECONOMICS? DON'T WORRY, SO IS THE GOP


I've been saying the modern GOP doesn't understand basic economics for some time now. But seeing it in survey form is nice too. This is from Thinkprogress ... 
survey of forty economists from across the ideological and partisan spectrum has concluded that on some of its most cherished issues, the Republican Party has simply taken leave of economic reality. For instance, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers noted that one of the results from the survey — run by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which is hardly known for a left-wing slant — is an overwhelming agreement that the 2009 Recovery Act (i.e. the stimulus) brought down unemployment. 
Put another way, as I've pointed out over and over again, when it comes to unemployment, the Stimulus program worked (though, as I've noted many times, Team Obama screwed up big time when it came to fixing or bringing justice to the banks).  Without the Stimulus program things would be much worse in America.

But wait, the same economists have more to say about what we should be looking at in the future. Again, from Thinkprogress ...
And while there was a bit more disagreement as to whether the benefits of the stimulus bill outweighed its costs, the bulk of the economists surveyed came down in the “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” camps. Other points from the survey’s respondents worth noting:  
* The nation needs new revenues. Contrary to nearly every Republican, the economists overwhelmingly agreed that the federal budget deficit cannot and should not be closed without increased tax revenue.
* No gold standard. They roundly rejected the belief that a return to the gold standard would stabilize prices or lower unemployment. Enthusiasm for the gold standard made a significant comeback in Republican circles during the presidential primaries.
* The “Laffer Curve” won’t help. Virtually all of them rejected the notion that cutting income tax rates would actually increase total tax revenue in future years.
* Rethink the drug war. The respondents were also generally in favor of softer approaches to the nation’s drug problem. 
While there were a few survey results that could be interpreted as hard on progressive causes as well, none struck at their heart in the same way as the positions taken on core Republican beliefs.
All of this helps to explain why - as I've noted numerous times - when it comes to fixing the deficit the GOP is woefully unprepared because they can't do basic math. Worse, they are prone to presenting fictitious budgets with no numbers that strangely resemble President Bush's policies


There's more, but you get the point. According to economists, the modern GOP is seriously misinformed about how market economics actually work.
- Mark

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

WHAT CHAMPIONS THINK ...


- Mark

NO, YOU DIDN'T BUILD YOUR BUSINESS ON YOUR OWN ...

At the beginning of chapter one of my book, The Myth of the Free Market, I tell the story of Montana farmer Lynn Cornwell. I begin by explaining how Mr. Cornwell was such an ardent opponent of the inheritance tax that he showed up on a tractor in Washington, D.C. in 2000 to dramatize how paying the inheritance - or estate - tax was breaking the American family farm. The estate tax is essentially what the offspring of the wealthy owe on their inherited wealth after they receive their first tax free million.

It didn't matter that the American Farm Bureau could not produce one case where a family farm had been lost as a result of the estate tax. Mr. Cornwell was opposed to the estate tax and didn't like the idea of the Paris Hilton's of America having to pay taxes on wealth that is essentially handed to them. 

But there was a problem. The Cornwell Ranch received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal subsidies, which placed it in the top ten percent of Montana ranches that received federal handouts between 1996 and 2000. Ironically, the wealthy Montana rancher who balked at paying taxes on inherited wealth - arguing that the grim hand of the state undermined the logic of the market - had no problem asking for taxpayer funded handouts from the federal government. Nice. 

coburnreport.png

I bring up the issue of wealthy businessmen securing taxpayer subsidized handouts because Mitt Romney's new television ad features an offended (but subsidized) businessman quizzically asking, "My father's hand didn't build this company? My hands didn't build this company? My son's hands aren't building this company?"

So what inspired the "offended" businessman - who has also received tax payer funded subsidies - to mockingly claim that his business was not built by his family? Check this out.

President Obama spoke at Roanoke, Virginia on July 13 about the government providing services like infrastructures, security, parks, libraries, legal infrastructures, and an educated workforce. You know, all the things that make our markets work. Specifically, President Obama said: 

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help…Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
The Romney campaign, however, decided to cut out the "roads and bridges" part of President Obama's speech. Mitt Romney wants voters to believe that President Obama was simply saying "it may be your business but you didn't build that ...".  Unfortunately, for certain people, this kind of campaigning works. Sigh ...


In fact, the Romney campaign has teamed with Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the right wing noise machine to spread the lie that President Obama was telling business owners that they didn't create their own business. In reality President Obama was trying to explain that there are services and infrastructures that they didn't build, which have made their successes possible.

The point is, as I point out throughout my book, the state creates the conditions under which wealth is created. Is that so hard to understand?

Apparently, it is.

Indeed, currently I am responding to people on Facebook who believe some kind of homo economicus exists, and that non business people are drags on society. This happens because they don't know history, and have very little understanding of what stabilizes markets in the modern world. I won't go into the details here (read my book), but a bit of history helps to illustrate how the state has made the wealth creation we see in America today possible.

Simply put, we need to keep in mind that the government cleared the way for American settlers in the 19th century with war and what we would call genocide today. 

The government then made possible the transfer of land to "homesteaders." The capturing and confiscation of one's property and transferring it to another group would be called socialism today. History tells us that this is simply our "pioneer" period.

At the end of the day, God's hand, Manifest Destiny, and the "magic of the market" had nothing to with the wealth creation that was made possible by these developments. It was all planned and done with the brute force of the state. Getting property rights right (through the state) followed. Excluding blacks and women from the marketplace (through custom, law, and simple racism) helped skew market rewards by effectively keeping one half of the population from participating fully in the market. And on it goes ...

Yet, for our free marketeers today, there has been some kind of mystical fairy sprinkling magic fairy dust throughout America since our founding. So, no, you didn't build your business on your own.

The ignorance on all of this is - or should be - embarrassing.

- Mark

Thursday, July 19, 2012

THE CRAZIES ... THE OBAMA HATER VERSION

In the movie The Crazies a small Iowa town is suddenly plagued by insanity (and death) after a mysterious toxin contaminates the water supply. The infected crazies are listless and engage in repetitive speech before going after the healthy members of the population. Those who are not infected are forced to defend themselves by killing their toxic neighbors and friends. It's a pretty grisly movie, but it conveys the idea of what happens when a segment of the population is contaminated, can't think straight, and then go crazy on the normal people who are left to defend the gates of civilization.

I'm inspired to bring up The Crazies because unhinged Obama haters seem to have become infected with the market virus called trickle down theory. And it has made them crazy. Worse, they are hell bent on coming after and infecting the rest of us with their failed but toxic reality. 


The fact that thirty years of trickle down economics has crashed and burned - and brought us nothing but record debt and a collapsed economy - doesn't matter to those who drink the toxic Kool-Aid created by Ronald Reagan. Living in a political bedlam only they understand, they continue to believe that the super rich need more deficit funded tax cuts, and even more deregulation.

Lately, fearful of another four years with President Obama, several of my conservative friends on Facebook seem to have taken a second dose of the trickle down toxin and gone completely bat shit crazy. Like the repetitive crazies in the movie, in drone-like fashion they repeat the same Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, et al. inspired story lines over and over. 


From placing the blame on President Obama for the budget mess, to saying he has raised taxes to record levels, to arguing that he has accomplished nothing while in office, the arguments are the same. Apart from accusing President Obama of being a "liar" because of how he broke his campaign promises, like the crazies in the movie these guys don't rest. 


It doesn't matter - as I have repeatedly pointed out to these people - that the same unfunded spending policies that President Bush put in place are still with us, dragging our economy down ... 


Seriously, it doesn't matter how much evidence that I point to, they continue to believe that the unfunded spending programs that were initiated under President Bush are President Obama's programs. Ergo, President Obama is to blame for spending more than we take in when the data tells us otherwise ...


The primary justification for blaming President Obama is pretty simple. Essentially the crazies argue that President Obama has been in office long enough, and even once had both houses of Congress under Democratic control. Because he has not fixed our economy they argue that he is to blame for the budget and financial mess left by President Bush.

This is powerful stuff. But only if you're crazy.

They don't understand that President Obama never really had both houses in Congress. Lukewarm and turncoat Democrats in the Senate (Nelson, Lieberman, etc.) regularly voted with the GOP. They also don't understand that his faux majority in the Senate was effectively lost when Senator Kennedy passed in 2009. And they sure like to ignore, in crazy-like fashion, that the GOP has pursued record breaking filibuster threats whenever President Obama proposes anything of substance



For the crazies in crazy land none of this matters because, well, they're crazy.

It also doesn't matter - as I predicted in January of 2009 - that the GOP effectively promised that they would not work with President Obama in 2009, and then deliberately stalled and failed to work with him after winning the House in 2010. And the proof is in the pudding. The GOP controlled house has not found the time to vote once on the president's jobs bill. But they sure have found the time to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act 33 times, even though they know it won't pass in the Senate and that President Obama would veto the bill.

It doesn't even matter that our nation has suffered because of their crazy games. As long as President Obama looks bad the Republicans believe their immediate goal of turning him into a one term president (which is part of a larger GOP strategy) will become a reality. Deliberately going out of the way to undermine the health of our nation by going after one guy is seriously crazy (you could also make the case for sedition and treason, but that's another story for another day).

This probably explains why one of my FB friends who says that he is not a Birther went out of his way to present an entirely made up story where President Obama supposedly claimed (and then took his time taking back) that he was born in Kenya. Tell me, who does this kind of stuff?

But wait, we're not done yet. There's even more crazy out there.


The GOP likes to argue that taxes are at record high levels. They are not. In fact, corporate taxes as a percentage of revenue and GDP are lower today then at any time since the end of World War II. Seriously, they are. And, for the record, individual tax rates are at their lowest levels in 60 yearsI've presented this information to the crazies many times. But like the crazies in the movie, they apparently don't read.

Since they do not read, as you can imagine, they are not even trying to do the math when it comes to the budget. One person, responding to one my op-eds in our local paper, claimed that President Bush only raised the deficit by $2 trillion dollars! Now that's some serious crazy. 
Blame shifting, congressional games, math dystopia, and deliberately sabotaging the president's agenda are all in a days work for the crazies. They don't even care to discuss the merits of President Obama's accomplishments. For them, there are none.

The only thing that's important for our Obama hating political crazies is that President Obama is discredited and made a one term president ... and that we become infected with their virus. 

- Mark 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

THIS IS AMERICA

You may quibble with the exact numbers, but this clip says much more about America than most of the mindless drones of our nation care to admit ...



Hat tip to Roland for posting this originally.

- Mark

Monday, July 16, 2012

WHY WE'RE IN TROUBLE ...

Whenever I try to explain why we are in trouble as a nation financially I always have to stop and think about one thing: How little knowledge the average citizen has about the institutions that are supposed to manage and regulate our financial system. It's why we don't get serious financial reform.

This clip from The Other Guys helps to make the point ...



Seriously, and unfortunately, this clip kind of nails it.

- Mark

Saturday, July 14, 2012

IN THE FYI CATEGORY

I'm participating in a Church & State panel discussion on campus in the fall. Unless I am specifically asked not to I want to have this projected in the background while I speak ...





- Mark 

WHY YOU SHOULD SUPPORT OBAMACARE ...

The days of health care CEOs and industry executive padding their $10 million-plus paychecks and bonuses by denying medical coverage to gravely ill clients who paid their premiums may be at an end.


One part of Obamacare is to force the health insurance industry to adjust the way they prioritize spending, away from immediate big salaries and bonuses towards providing long-term health care insurance without the fear of being dropped or having your services capped. So, instead of spending just 70-75 cents of every dollar on insurance payouts, health care insurance companies must now dedicate at least 80 cents (85 cents for larger firms) of every dollar to health care claims and quality health care improvements. The remaining 20 cents can be used for marketing and administrative costs (like multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses). 

You can read all about this in this Kaiser Foundation report (or this one), or in the Affordable Care Act here (Medical Loss Ratios, starting at p. 204).

What does this mean for you? Simple. If you paid a health care insurance provider that does not use 80 cents of each income dollar on health care they must now refund the difference to you. This is why you are seeing signs and posts like this one ...


The goal is make sure health care providers focus on covering health care costs that you paid for rather than pouring money into exorbitant CEO salaries and unearned shareholder profits (denying coverage is not "earning" money). It's the difference between providing a service and wealth extraction. 


More practically, if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a hospital you no longer have to worry about your insurance payouts being capped, or being dropped simply because you have an illness that the insurers don't want to pay for after you've paid all your premiums. Here's a short list of things that the Republican party would do away with if the GOP's many votes (33 at last count) to repeal Obamacare bore fruit ... 




And before you start yapping about forcing insurance providers to spend money on what they are paid to insure keep in mind that slot machines in Las Vegas are legally required to payout 75 percent of what they take in (House payouts are higher) to gullible suckers who have NO expectation of winning.


Again, the days of CEOs making hundreds of millions by denying medical coverage to gravely ill patients who paid their premiums may be at an end. 


- Mark 


P.S. And, yes, if you are opposed to Obamacare and get a refund check from your health care provider you should take a principled stand and send your Obamacare rebate check back to your insurance provider. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

MONKEY BUSINESS

Think about this one for a moment (click to enlarge) ...


Now replace "cage" with the halls of Congress, "bananas" with tax rates during the Clinton and Reagan administrations, and "scientists" with Republicans. Then replace "monkeys" with rational policymakers who want to reduce our national debt

See how that works?

And, yes, we were on track to being close to paying off our national debt by 2012. But then President Bush's unfunded spending binge happened.

- Mark

P.S. kudos to Alan for posting this on FB.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

THIS IS WHY NO ONE IS FREAKING OUT ABOUT THE LIBOR BANKING SCANDAL

Rolling Stone magazine's Mike Taibbi has an interesting question about the financial rate fixing scandal discovered between the banks in Europe: "Why is No One Freaking Out About the LIBOR Banking Scandal?I think I have the answer. Simply put, the players in the world's biggest financial institutions have become modern day untouchables. 



But rather than being medieval leper-like untouchables they are more like royal authority, who were insulated and protected by palace sycophants. The courtiers today are the politicians. Mesmerized by the power of the financial courts they seek to please, today's politicians are always ready to put their noses far up the rear ends of Wall Street and the world's biggest financial institutions.

The end result is that even with a steady string of acknowledged half billion dollar finesbig bribesJP Morgan's billion dollar "miscalculations," and Barclay's rate fixing scandal there is hardly a holler from Washington, or Main Street. 


And we're not even four years out from the 2008 market collapse. Worse, it was understood five years ago that the biggest banks were playing with the LIBOR rate (loosely speaking LIBOR is the interest rate financial institutions charge each other).


Think about it. The CEO of Barclays, Bob Diamond, resigned in disgrace for his role in (mis)managing and helping to "fix" the interbank exchange rate. Yet, virtually no one in Washington has anything to say about how this fits into a steady drip of bribes, payoffs (i.e. fines), and mismanagement that's been happening in the financial world.




Did I mention that we're not even four years removed from the 2008 market collapse? 

Sigh ...

So why have the biggest players in the world's biggest financial institutions become virtually untouchable? Simple. Instead of being held to account for wrecking and then mismanaging the global economy the world's biggest financial players have been allowed to pay fines and play kissy-face with financially illiterate politicians around the world.


So we end up with utterly useless and embarrassing staged shows that are supposed to be fact finding committee hearings ... you know, like the one we just saw with JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon in Washington. Truly pathetic.




It's why - as I pointed out nine months ago - a clueless Bill O'Reilly can ask his equally clueless audience why, if what they did was so bad, there haven't been any big investigations into Wall Street criminality. If you listen to O'Reilly it's because there is "no evidence" of wrongdoing because "they didn't violate any laws!"


Bill O'Reilly's ignorance on this issue is truly embarrassing. 


As I explained on my blog, we didn't get any big investigations - let alone big convictions - after the 2008 market collapse because we dumped trillions in taxpayer funded bailouts and other guarantees into the financial sector. I further explained that in the process of saving our financial system we effectively removed the threat of receivership, bankruptcy, disgrace, and the full force of our legal system from Wall Street's horizon. 

This is the way our legal and political system works for white collar executives with money (it's also why financial executives involved in hit and run cases can escape felony charges). Many in our modern political culture are too busy trying to kiss the rings of our financial overlords that they can't see any of this, let alone understand that the financial emperor(s) of America don't have any clothes.



So, to recap, no one is freaking out over the most recent major financial scandal because the world's biggest financial players have become politically untouchable.

If you are going to talk to your friends about this you want to explain that it's not that there wasn't illegality and corruption in the lead up to 2008. It's just that the rules of the game are rigged, and they prevent our financial mandarins from having to account for their actions.


Below is a partial list that explains how this has happened:

Purified Toxic Crap ... Bailouts essentially turned straw into gold by using taxpayer funded cash to purchase toxic "legacy assets," for example. To date well over $5 trillion in watered stock, bad assets, and toxic securities have been pretty much cleaned up (forcibly) by the U.S. government taxpayer. If the worst is cleaned up what do you go after? 
Information Blackouts ...  One of the cornerstones of any market economy - and any democracy - is transparency. Without it you can't get good information. Guess what? Bailout payout information was deliberately withheld from the public on orders from current Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner. With an information blackout the most toxic and ethically challenged market instruments have been able to fly under the radar (and then get cleaned up).
Out of Court Legal Settlements ...  Instead of entering into court battles - which are critical for building precedent and case law - financial firms like Goldman Sachs routinely pay fines into the hundreds of millions of dollars. This is chump change when you look at the trillions the financial industry has hauled in (and the trillions more we are now on the hook for). It's hard to get convictions when you can pay a taxpayer subsidized fine and walk away. (This case, however, is refreshing.)
Right to Sue is Waived ...  At the center of all the toxic payouts in 2008 was A.I.G. In exchange for getting bailout cash A.I.G. was forced to give up it's right to sue Wall Street firms in court. In a few words A.I.G. was given an offer they couldn't refuse: Take the money and shut up, or you don't get any help at all (and you might even get caught up in a legal dragnet too). But it gets better (or is that worse?). At one point during the height of the market crisis in 2008 the Federal Reserve demanded unusual national security procedures before it would share or supply critical A.I.G. bailout related documents. 

There's more. Much more. This Matt Taibbi piece is an excellent place to start if
you like reading about Washington politics and our economic mess.




So, to simplify, you can't be sued or convicted if the problem is purified with a pile of taxpayer backed cash ... or information is deliberately withheld or distorted ... or if you pay record fines to avoid court trials ... or if the initial keystone bailout institution is told they can't sue as a condition for receiving taxpayer money.

Let me repeat the point. You can't get investigations - let alone sued - if the state intervenes to help you bury the financial bodies. The money guys and our financial institutions have become virtually untouchable because of the palace sycophants and financial illiterates who run the world's capitals.


It's really that simple.


- Mark


UPDATE: Well, this is good news. A trickle of LIBOR rate-fixing lawsuits is expected "to become a deluge" ... 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

IF JUPITER WERE OUR MOON

From imgur.comIf Jupiter was the same distance away from Earth as our moon this is what we would be looking at every night ...



- Mark 

REPUBLICAN TAX HIKES LARGER THAN OBAMACARE MANDATE

From The Atlantic ... 


The Affordable Care Act is not "the largest tax increase in the history of the world," despite what you might have heard on The Rush Limbaugh Show. In fact, it's not even the largest tax increase in the history of The Rush Limbaugh Show. Two years after Rush's national syndication, President George H. W. Bush signed a slightly bigger tax increase in 1990. And Reagan's tax increase from 1982 was bigger than both of them.




Also, you might want to add up Reagan's 1982 tax increase with his Social Security tax hike of 1983.

And be sure to share this with your friends.

- Mark