Monday, February 28, 2011


Anyone who has watched Repo Men (Jude Law & Forrest Whitaker, 2010) will find this interesting. It turns out that an anonymous parent in the Boston area posted an ad on Craigslist to offer their body parts to anyone who can pay off their child's student loans.

To be sure, no one will confuse the offer to sell their body parts with with "Repo Men 2011" (the Craigslist ad was taken down). Still, the fact that the ad was posted in the first place has to make you think about the direction of our society.

What do you think? Should we let the market work on this one? Free marketeers?

- Mark

HERE'S HOW WE SAVE $1.1 TRILLION (and more) ...

So Republicans are poised to push a government shutdown to make a point.

Just what that point is isn't entirely clear when you consider how Republicans sat by and watched as President Bush turned hundreds of billions in surpluses into trillion dollar deficits ... while adding $5 trillion to our national debt (currently budget deficits are projected to hit $1.1 trillion this year).

Hey, I have an idea. If the Republican Party is really interested in reducing deficits and our national debt why doesn't the GOP work with President Obama. They could go after spending programs administered by the IRS which grant specific tax breaks to individuals and corporations, while robbing the Treasury of much needed revenue. These exemptions are the king of tax breaks and corporate loopholes.

So, how much are we talking about? Let's try at least $1.1 trillion in tax breaks. Here's a small sample of these tax breaks from the Center for American Progress' Seth Hanlon:

* If you're wealthy enough you get a tax exemption on your capital gains income (because Wall Street's gambling is more important than actual work).

* If you inherit land you get a tax break (because getting free land is such hard work).

* You get a tax break for your charitable contributions (look, you have to admit that it's not real charity if you're getting a tax break for being kind).

* If you have an individual retirement account  you get a tax break on the income you use to invest (because everyone agrees that income used to invest in a "free market" should be sheltered and protected, right?).

* Then we have private "employer-provided" health care, which covers 60% of Americans under 65, but is actually paid by the American taxpayer (and this was before health care reform).

These and other tax breaks account for approximately $1.1 trillion ... or about the same amount that our budget deficit is expected to hit this year. And we haven't even touched the $100 billion per year that U.S. PIRG estimate U.S. firms save by locating their companies off shore for tax purposes.

If you're not too excited about going after this pool of tax break goodies (even I like the mortgage deduction), why don't we try going after the $88.7 billion in tax breaks that wealthy Americans will benefit from this year? Think about this one.

Everything from million dollar estates (no longer taxed when they are passed on) to tax breaks for vacation homes and "estate planning" are granted tax deductions under our current tax code. Yet, the Republican Party doesn't want to touch these giveaways for the rich. After all, it's so much easier to cut programs for children and the poor (because Jesus clearly supported the money lenders when he was here on earth, right?).

We could also start looking at corporate income taxes for 2012 (which are projected to hit $329 billion) and Wall Street compensation packages (at least $135 billion in 2010), but you get the point.

Our budget picture could improve dramatically, and overnight ... if only our members of Congress would get their priorities straight, and grow a pair.

- Mark

Sunday, February 27, 2011


You know how Texas Governor Rick Perry - in an effort to look like a macho tough guy - has been pandering to the right wing extremists of the GOP? Well, after reading this, and looking at this picture ...

... for some reason all I see is this ...

To be sure, Perry was using the gun in the picture above at a racing event. But you get the point.

- Mark

Saturday, February 26, 2011


I give a number of talks each year for various groups and organizations. I don't normally do this, but I was so impressed with the activities of the group I spoke in front of this past week that I wanted to share what they do with a larger community.

Specifically, this past week I was a keynote speaker for AgSafe, an agricultural organization dedicated to worker safety. AgSafe is a non-profit organization made up of individuals, associations and businesses who have a shared mission of preventing injuries, illness and fatalities among those who work in agriculture. 

I spoke about the definition of "success" and how my grandfather had a life full of success, in spite of the fact that he never finished a full year school (he taught himself how to read and write in English and Spanish). My story made it clear that my grandfather was the epitome of success because of how he opened doors for others.

I encourage everyone who is involved in the field of agriculture to take a look at AgSafe. The work they do saves lives.

- Mark

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Everyone should read this Rolling Stone article on the corruption and stupidity that dominate the halls of Washington and the financial institutions on Wall Street. Written by Matt Taibbi, we are asked the very simple question: "Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?". Here's the introduction ...

Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

"Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."

I put down my notebook. "Just that?"

"That's right," he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there."

It only gets better as you read through it. Enjoy ...

- Mark

Monday, February 21, 2011


In my American Politics class I'm going to discuss the relationship between Wall Street and Washington once we hit the section on Economic Policy. This piece, which I originally posted in longer form when President Obama was "president-elect" Obama, will fit right in with our discussion on economic policy making.

Should President Obama pursue an Andrew Jackson-like showdown with America’s principle money and credit institutions? I think so. Here's why ...

Andrew Jackson's Battle for Democracy
Arthur M. Schlesinger, author of The Age of Jackson, points out that when Andrew Jackson entered the White House (1829-1837) he was appalled by the amount of power that the premier money creating institution in the land, the Bank of the United States, had accumulated. Run by Nicholas Biddle, the Bank of the United States pursued policies that reflected his view, and ran counter to the larger interests of the nation.

Specifically, the (Second) Bank of the United States operated its affairs as if it did not have an obligation to either the U.S. government or its citizens. The Bank’s obligations, according to Biddle, lied with its shareholders.

As a result, the Bank of the United States used its authority to create money (or “issue notes”) to speculate, to challenge the authority of the U.S. government, and to help investors and the “moneyed aristocracy” systematically exploit the “humble members of society.”

With this, the Bank’s power was at once economic, political, and social. This, in part, explains why Andrew Jackson decided to close the Bank of the United States.

Naturally, Nicholas Biddle was upset with Jackson for going after his bank. So he induced an economic panic by deliberately withholding credit (sound familiar?) between 1833 and 1834. Biddle claimed his policies had nothing to do with politics. But history (and common sense) suggests otherwise.

By holding the nation's economy hostage Biddle's actions also proved that Jackson was correct about the banks power, and its capacity to abuse its power.

Financial Institutions, Then and Now
This is important for us to understand today because America's financial institutions are sitting on money and profits provided to them by the U.S. taxpayer, and are holding back on credit precisely when it is needed most. Because we have done little to curtail or regulate their power we are allowing them to act like Biddle’s bank.

In fact, by providing a continuous flow of bailout money with no strings attached, we have created a hydra-headed financial monster that President Obama should fear as much as President Andrew Jackson did during his time: an institution that could both lend and create money at will, while drawing on the resources of the state to make itself bigger and stronger.

Today, financial institutions are drawing on state resources while maintaining previous authorities and protections. In the process, they are leaving the American consumer (and taxpayer) out in the cold. Nicholas Biddle would have been proud.

Worse, our nation's financial institutions – in Nicholas Biddle-like fashion – are now telling the world that they don’t have to maintain credit lines in spite of the fact that the U.S. government and the U.S. taxpayer are the genesis of their life support system. After wrecking the economy, and securing taxpayer backed bailout funds, they must protect their shareholders first.

I say if we are going to hand over trillions of dollars to save the financial system they should be forced to help the government fix the mess they helped create. While I don’t see President Obama recreating the financial system like Jackson did when he closed the Bank of the United States, I still think he should pursue a Jackson-like confrontation.

He should begin by forcing the financial institutions who benefit from the U.S. taxpayer bailout to renegotiate mortgage loan contracts, and/or reduce credit card interest rates.

Just a thought, for President's Day.

- Mark

Addendum: This list of ridiculous things our presidents have done is a light read for President's Day.

Addendum II: For addtional information on Andrew Jackson, which I put together for my Presidency course, click here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


In my American Politics classes I always be sure to say that there's absolutely nothing in the Constitution that forbids anyone from making a fool of themselves. It looks like Glenn Beck is taking this sentiment to an entirely different level. This is from ...

Glenn Beck: Some Muslims Want to Bring About the Antichrist

Glenn Beck theorized that some Muslims are trying to bring about the equivalent of the Antichrist on his Thursday show.

Beck claimed that he was bringing the issue up because Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt both believe in the Twelfth Imam--a figure in Shia Islam who Beck and his guest, author Joel Richardson, said bore a disturbing resemblance to the Biblical Antichrist.

Hey. I have an idea ...

Why doesn't Glenn Beck tap into the 911-God call line that he has in his head, and ask that the Spirit of God be unleashed against the Muslim-invited Antichrist. You know, like he claimed was possible when he spoke in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the summer. That way we can have the God vs. Antichrist Cage Match that Beck thinks he's uniquely qualified to see developing before anyone else.

What a goofball.

Seriously. Even the village idiots have to be scratching their heads on this one. No doubt, they're laughing too.

- Mark

P.S. This article by Frank Rich at the NY Times explains what's going on with Glenn Beck and modern conservatism. One thing is clear to Rich: The GOP and modern conservatism appears to be both shrill and adrift. Not a good combination.

Friday, February 18, 2011



In my Introduction to American Politics class I discuss with my students the basic institutions of American government. Most of it is standard boiler plate stuff. One of the topics that generates many comments and questions is when I discuss the structure of our court system and introduce our FISA courts. A product of the Nixon era, the article below by Jonathan Turley was one of the earliest pieces to introduce our FISA court system to America after 9/11. I'm re posting the article for my class (which I assume they'll use for their mid-term next week) as it appeared in the LA Times nine years ago. Enjoy.

A Shot Across the Bow From the Darkness
Commentary By Jonathan Turley
August 26 2002
Los Angeles Times

For many citizens, the notion of an American "secret court" would appear a striking contradiction in terms. Until last week's disclosures by Congress, few Americans were aware that our government routinely used such a court to conduct searches of its own citizens for the purpose of foreign intelligence gathering, searches that would be denied as unconstitutional by any conventional court. However, this little-known court released to Congress a rare public opinion chastising Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft and disclosing dozens of secret violations by the Justice Department.

Most alarming is the disclosure of a plan by Ashcroft to change the role of the court in spying on citizens. Not only would the court no longer have foreign intelligence gathering as its primary purpose, but Ashcroft's prosecutors would be in direct control of the use and dissemination of information gathered on citizens.

The opinion released Thursday details more than 75 cases in which the Justice Department supplied false information to the court to carry out secret searches. These are only the cases that the Justice Department itself has located and admitted to. Moreover, the court rejected Ashcroft's effort to change its role in a way that would allow him to effectively circumvent the 4th Amendment in future searches of citizens.

The plan would allow a greater array of cases to bypass the federal courts, be exempted from basic constitutional requirements and then be handled in total secrecy.

The plan would create a one-stop convenience store for searches, avoiding the nasty constitutional traffic created by the nation's framers in requirements of probable cause and meaningful judicial review.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this opinion is not its disclosures but its source. This court has never rejected an application for surveillance despite more than 1,000 such applications each year. It has all the trappings and little of the substance of a real court. There is even a secret appellate court, which, until now, has never considered a challenge.

During my brief stint at the National Security Agency, I had occasion to appear before this secret court -- known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, court.

My first reaction was that it appeared like a bad set for a Maxwell Smart episode, with a series of doors and secret codes. The room that is sometimes portrayed as America's Star Chamber would make most traffic courts look grand in comparison. I'm not sure if it was the gravity of the actions taken by the court or the casual atmosphere that most disturbed me.

Ironically, FISA was enacted as a reform in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Richard Nixon previously asserted the right to conduct unilateral searches in the name of national security, and Congress sought a compromise to create some form of legal process and review. It was a compromise that many would come to regret. While the framers required the government to satisfy probable cause in any search or seizure, FISA allows secret searches of citizens without meeting that standard.

That was not the only change.

Under federal law, a citizen who is subject to a government wiretap is eventually notified of the intrusion. This creates a certain deterrent of government abuse.

Under FISA, a team can enter your home, quickly scrub your computer, wire your house, install a device to record every keystroke on your computer and rifle your files. There is little deterrent of abusive because the victims are unaware that their privacy has been invaded.

It is not surprising that FISA has become the destination of choice for investigators with a hankering for a search but a paucity of evidence. While these searches were meant to be the exception rather than the rule, FISA eavesdropping orders now outnumber conventional ones.

In its opinion, the court acknowledges that "many hundreds of citizens" have been searched under its secret orders. Yet even this court could not stomach what Ashcroft demanded in secret papers.

Ashcroft went to the secret court to declare that, among other changes, it would now "be used primarily for a law enforcement purpose" and not its original foreign intelligence-gathering purpose. The court refused to sign on to such an interpretation and refused to allow the expanded use of FISA material. Undeterred, Ashcroft is now appealing to the secret appellate court (once anyone can remember where it is or who is on it).

Abandoning its past custom of absolute secrecy, the court released this opinion as a warning to citizens. We should not expect the luxury of a second shot across the bow.

Jonathan Turley teaches constitutional law at George Washington University Law.

© 2002 Los Angeles Times

If you want to read more on the FISA courts, check out this 2002 article from

- Mark

Thursday, February 17, 2011


My book, The Myth of the Free Market, just hit #1 in two categories on Amazon: "Public Affairs & Administration" and "Free Enterprise." It's #5 in "Company Profiles."

It's taken a while to reach #1, but I want to thank those of you who have purchased a copy. The next one is in the works.
- Mark

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


If you read my earlier posts on chivalry and real patriotism you know why I think former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, is spot on with these recent proposals. Specifically, Reich is proposing that we raise the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans to:

* 70 percent on incomes over $15 million
* 60 percent on incomes between $5 million and $15 million.
* 50 percent on incomes between $500,000 and $5 million.

Before you hit the reset button, consider the following:

* Only 375,000 Americans have incomes of over $1,000,000.
* Between 1979 and 2007, incomes for the wealthiest 1% of Americans rose by 281%.
* In 1963, millionaires had a top marginal tax rate of 91%.

Since 1980 our national debt has climbed from just under $1 trillion to more than $14 trillion today. All the while, we've been cutting taxes for the rich, and paying for their tax rebates by borrowing more money, which only puts us deeper into debt.

Seriously, our nation is in a deep hole because of more than 30 years of tax cuts for the rich, yet the wealthiest Americans - who have seen their wealth reach record levels because of deregulation, tax cuts, bailouts, and political favors - are hiding behind the myth that they deserve even more tax breaks ... you know, because trickle down economics has worked out so well for America ...

And this isn't simply pie-in-the-sky Robin Hood economics ...

Imposing tax rates like Reich suggests would reverse 30 years of one of the biggest wealth transfers in human history. It would also go a long way in stabilizing our nation's finances.

You can read the rest of Reich's article here.

- Mark

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Remember the story of Sisyphus? He was the king in Greek mythology who was punished by being forced to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. He was to repeat this activity throughout eternity.

If you recall this story then you'll understand why this piece from Mother Jones makes the U.S. taxpayer out to be little more than an American Sisyphus ...

First you bailed out Fannie and Freddie. Now you're paying their legal bills.

Taxpayers have covered $434 million in legal fees for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and their highly-paid executives since the federal government took over the wounded housing giants in September 2008, according to data (PDF) provided to Mother Jones by a congressional source.

In case you forgot, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were privately managed, government backed, institutions who were used to absorb corporate America's toxic mortgage loans. They then bundled them up and dumped these contracts (CDOs) on gullible market players (like union and state pension funds), who ended up taking huge hits when the market collapsed in 2008.

After the American taxpayer bailed out Fannie and Freddie, and backstopped all the toxic loans for Wall Street's wage and bonus bonanza in 2008 and 2009, we're now paying to defend their incompetence too. Great.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm beginning to feel like the American Sisyphus ... condemned to bailout out Wall Street and corporate America's incompetence into eternity.

- Mark

Monday, February 14, 2011


I smell a rat. After being told by Wall Street that their stupidity and greed were not to blame for the market collapse in 2008, we are once again being treated to big interconnected financial players saying they don't pose a systemic risk - in spite of the fact that they are much larger today than before 2008.

One would hope market players feel this way because Wall Street no longer follows off-the-books, smoke & mirrors, debt bomb, strategies like this any longer. Think again.

As I've pointed out here, here, here, and here Wall Street is still betting the house, recklessly. So, with all the "recovery is around the corner" happy talk starting to come out of Wall Street again, I think it's time that we take a stroll down Wall Street memory lane (courtesy of the Daily Show) ...

* March 11, 2008: Jim Cramer, "Bear Stearns is fine, do not take your money out ..."
Bear Stearns collapsed six days later.

* April 17, 2008: Market experts, "Will Merrill [Lynch] need to raise capital? No ..."
Five months later Merrill Lynch ran out of money, and is now owned by Bank of America.

* June 5, 2008: Market experts concur, "Lehman Bros. is no Bear Stearns ..."
Lehman Bros. went under three months later.

Want more pre-collapse Happy Talk? OK ...

* October 31, 2007: Jim Cramer, "You should be buying things ... and accept that they're over valued ... but accept that they're going to keep going higher ... that's how you make money" (Dow 13,930).
* February 1, 2008: Jim Cramer, "That's why the market just won't quit ... no matter how poorly companies are actually doing" (12,743).
* April 16, 2008: Kudlow & Company, "The worst of this subprime mess is over" (Dow 12,619).
* November 2008: Market experts, "People are starting to get their confidence back" (Dow 9625).

So, how wrong was former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan before the market collapsed in 2008? Let's just say his Utopian view of markets left even him in a Inspector Renault-like state of shock after he discovered how they really worked ...

Which begs the question, how wrong was current Fed Chair Ben Bernanke? Check it out ...

One of the sadder parts of this emerging story-line story is how the media's Talking Heads - the people who are supposed to be the Fourth Estate - acted like a bunch of gushing children, buying into everything corporate America, and the Fed's Gods of Wealth, told them about markets then ... and now.

In a few words, we're screwed. Don't buy into the happy talk. Especially when we're taking a stroll down memory lane, that delivers us into a financial dead end.

- Mark

Friday, February 11, 2011


With the revelations of corruption and theft by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his cronies one has to wonder: When will America get fed up with Wall Street's greed and incompetence and march on Wall Street like the Egyptians have on Hosni Mubarak?

Think about it. Americans were rightly pissed off after the market collapsed in 2008. But Americans were also told to calm down and endure the pain as Wall Street's lobbyists worked the halls of Congress to secure taxpayer backed bailouts and bonuses, which Wall Street clearly did not deserve.

The trillions secured for Wall Street's theft make a mockery out of the $5-8 billion the Mubarak family is reported to have stashed away over the past generation. With Wall Street still playing the same financial games, and with trillions in taxpayer backed assistance still coming down the pike for Wall Street, history will repeat itself in America.

So my question is, when the next financial collapse occurs, will Wall Street get Mubaraked?  They certainly deserve it.

Still, something tells me that there's far too many lobbyists and corporatists in Washington to make Wall Street Walk Like an Egyptian ...

- Mark

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This clip is simply incredible. In this segment, which discusses events in Egypt, President Obama is simultaneously accused of being "a Muslim," a "Muslim sympathetic," "an appeaser," and someone who "gives textbook answers."

The guy who says "this crisis kind of snuck up on him" is a real gem. Think about this one for a moment. A crisis - like a car crash that turns into a multi-car pile up, for example - is an emergency event that no one can anticipate or control, especially as it is occurring.

I mean, it's not like President Obama lied to America ... then deliberately invaded Egypt, looking to oust Hosni Mubarak ... in the process destabilizing a state, which this focus group seems to think they know so much about.

No wonder George W. Bush was able to invade Iraq. This is his base. This is the base of the GOP. They watch Fox News. And they're not embarrassed by their ignorance.

- Mark


As some of you may have noted, I've been noting republican political failures since they took over. In a few words, because of their desire to derail President Obama they've largely focused on fluff issues that are short on substance but long on symbolism. Nothing gets done, but they make a point. This is what makes this so hilarious (and a little sad).

Yesterday the House failed to get the 2/3 vote necessary to extend three Patriot Act surveillance tools that are supposed to be critical for our nation's post- 9/11 security. The House voted 277-148 to keep three provisions of the USA Patriot Act on the books until Dec. 8., which left the bill seven short of 2/3 vote necessary for expedited measures. The three provisions (which expire Feb. 28) are roving wiretaps of multiple phones, surveillance of library records for anything "tangible" or relevant to a terrorist investigation, and the "lone wolf" provision which allows us to follow pretty much any non-U.S. citizen, even if they have no known terrorist affiliations.

You know ... the kind of Big Brother, Big Government provisions which the GOP claims to hate.


The GOP leadership will be following this fail with their much touted meeting with President Obama today, where they'll draw a line in the sand on their priorities, while telling the President "No" to his agenda items.

- Mark

Addendum: And, in the FYI category, the person in charge of keeping tabs of votes on the House floor for the GOP is Bakersfield's very own Kevin McCarthy. He's the Majority Whip ... I can't imagine him delegating this one out.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


From ...

"George Bush Cuts and Runs From Torture Case in Switzerland"

George Bush Cuts and Runs From Torture Case in Switzerland

Apparently, former president George W. Bush does 'cut and run.' On February 7, 2011, two torture victims were to have filed criminal complaints for torture against Bush in Geneva. Bush was due to speak there at a charity gala on February 12. On the eve of the case filing, Bush abruptly canceled his trip, choosing instead to attend the Super Bowl in Dallas. Why would he rather be in Dallas than in Geneva? For one thing, Swiss authorities are under a legal obligation to start a preliminary criminal investigation if a torturer is on Swiss soil. But, thanks to Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to apply US law to investigate torture, Bush isn't even breaking a sweat in Dallas - or anywhere in the US, for that matter.
Read the rest of the article here.
- Mark

Monday, February 7, 2011


I always tell my students "We don't regulate markets. We regulate people." Here's just one of the reasons why we regulate people ...

It appears that the Wall Street firms who sold mortgage-backed securities to investors violated federal securities laws by misleading their clients about the quality of the underlying mortgages. According to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) report, not only did "nearly every every cog in the financial system" break down over greed and myopic thinking, but the sellers of securities built on mortgage contracts failed to tell the buyers that the underlying contracts that they were peddling didn't meet their own standards.

The FCIC report - which every republican committee member effectively ran away from when they issued their own half-ass, Wall Street whitewash, report in December - found fault with every major player. Everyone, from Wall Street investment banks to government regulators, to the Federal Reserve, and the hedge funds and credit rating agencies, who kept pumping money into the system, played a role in wrecking our economy.

Ahh, the magic of the market ... brought to us by the nice people on Wall Street, who need to be regulated.

- Mark

Sunday, February 6, 2011


MSNBC's Cenk Uygur provides a nice overview of Super Bowl XLV, characterizing it as the most liberal Super Bowl ever.

Looking forward to the game.

- Mark

Friday, February 4, 2011


Remember the republicans first week in power? I wrote about it here. Check out the low lights.

* When asked about their pledge to cut or save $100 billion from the budget during their first year in power republican leaders fell over themselves, after assuming power, to say "Did you read the fine print? There are qualifiers ..."

* Then we learned that they were going to go through with their political charade to repeal health care reform - in spite of the fact that they knew the Senate would not support them, and that the President would veto the bill.

* Then they read the U.S. Constitution on the House floor, because reading is so educational.

* Then, for good measure, House Republicans voted against requiring members of Congress to disclose whether they're taking advantage of taxpayer funded health insurance plans, or if they've purchased private plan in the free market (so much for transparency).

Since then - rather than focusing on the economy - the GOP announced they would redefine what constitutes rape, only to follow this up by suddenly announcing that they would pull back from this effort. Then, on Thursday, they proposed a budget proposal that falls $68 billion short of their election season promise to cut $100 billion from the budget.

Governing isn't so easy when your political strategy depends on blowing smoke, scoring cheap political points and being obstinate, is it?

Still, in spite of passing legislation in the House that the Senate rejected (as everyone knew it would), and failing to cut $100 billion from the budget, republicans are claiming that defeat on issues that they campaigned on puts them right where they need to be for victory in 2012.  Seriously. Check it out here.

Fortunately for the GOP they have a neat photo ready to help convey their sense of accomplishment in the midst of mission failure ...

And, in case you missed it, the GOP still has no new proposals on a jobs program, or any plans to assist financially strapped cities and states. But their tax cuts for the rich and "Just say No" to Obama platform are right on track.

Oh, and under Speaker Boehner's watch, women in Congress are going to get a new bathroom.

That's progress. I guess.

- Mark

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I attached this as a post script on my previous post, which dealt with social security and quantitative easing. It's too good to leave as an add-on.

- Mark

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Have you ever wondered why the stock market never seems down for long, and then makes sudden and even convenient rallies? Even the 2008 market crash and recovery seems strangely managed, and is now taken for granted. What we're seeing is the virtual elimination of volatility and risk in the stock market (which Zero Hedge discusses here).  And it's all being done on the backs of the American taxpayer.

How has this happened? While the process may seem complex, it's all tied to a bailout and stimulus addicted market where cheap taxpayer-backed money is made available (in Washington-speak it's called Quantitative Easing, or QE). Simply put, the federal government, through the Federal Reserve, is doing it's level best to pump taxpayer money into a gambling den that used to be a competitive market system.

This money pump makes it very difficult for firms to fail, and for their stock prices to collapse, when they do stupid things.

While the goal is to get the economy back on it's feet and to instill confidence in reality it subsidizes and props up a crippled market environment. This helps the Mafia of Mediocrity that runs Wall Street feel good about the crappy decisions they've made. It also encourages Wall Street and other market players to continue doing business as usual, in the process ignoring how their taxpayer subsidized profits make them the super star investors they see in the mirror.

And why not? The government through the Federal Reserve simply won't let the biggest and most foolish market players collapse.

Why is this important? Because as Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge points out there is no longer "normalcy" in the market. The integrity of the market suffers because bad management is no longer weeded out. This is a problem because once Treasury purchases, trillion dollar guarantees, or future stimulus programs get cut, or fail to produce results, our Mafia of Mediocrity on Wall Street will still be there.
Worse, the only people who will win in this environment are the money barons who are rolling the dice today, betting on the market's collapse (i.e. those who "short" the market).

This is one of the reasons market players and their Republican errand boys want to privatize social security (which is currently generating cash surpluses). They're going to need a flood of money to cover the bets they've made in the market. A steady stream of Social Security payments from you and me will guarantee payoffs for those who bet against America.

Think of it as a Quantitative Easing, in perpetuity.

To be sure, a steady stream of social security payments will help to stimulate the market, at first. But it's real effect will be to lock the American taxpayer into Wall Street's casino for generations. Can you imagine Wall Street with trillions in taxpayer guaranteed funds, in perpetuity?

Viva Las Vegas!

If you want a road map into how this looks in real life check out how the Bush administration transferred $64 billion in carefully managed public pension funds to their market buddies right before the market collapse here. While big fees and bonuses went to those who made big bets on Wall Street, the big losers were the retirees who depended on the government to protect their pension funds, only to see it siphoned off by Wall Street's biggest players.

Any one who expects Wall Street to treat trillions of dollars in social security funds any different is simply living in a fantasy world.

- Mark

P.S. This helps to explain Quantitative Easing ...