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The Real Housewives of Wall Street

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The Real Housewives of Wall Street

Why is the Federal Reserve forking over $220 million in bailout money to the wives of two Morgan Stanley bigwigs?

America has two national budgets, one official, one unofficial. The official budget is public record and hotly debated: Money comes in as taxes and goes out as jet fighters, DEA agents, wheat subsidies and Medicare, plus pensions and bennies for that great untamed socialist menace called a unionized public-sector workforce that Republicans are always complaining about. According to popular legend, we’re broke and in so much debt that 40 years from now our granddaughters will still be hooking on weekends to pay the medical bills of this year’s retirees from the IRS, the SEC and the Department of Energy.

Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?

Most Americans know about that budget. What they don’t know is that there is another budget of roughly equal heft, traditionally maintained in complete secrecy. After the financial crash of 2008, it grew to monstrous dimensions, as the government attempted to unfreeze the credit markets by handing out trillions to banks and hedge funds. And thanks to a whole galaxy of obscure, acronym-laden bailout programs, it eventually rivaled the “official” budget in size — a huge roaring river of cash flowing out of the Federal Reserve to destinations neither chosen by the president nor reviewed by Congress, but instead handed out by fiat by unelected Fed officials using a seemingly nonsensical and apparently unknowable methodology.

Read more at: Rolling Stone

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{Photography by Mark Croddfield}

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Congressman Ron Paul is interviewed by Fox Business. December 10, 2010

Sunday, December 12th, 2010




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Ron Paul: “What We Need Is More WikiLeaks On The Federal Reserve”

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010




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The Big Economic Story, and Why Obama Isn’t Telling It

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

The Big Economic Story, and Why Obama Isn’t Telling It

Quiz: What’s responsible for the lousy economy most Americans continue to wallow in?

A. Big government, bureaucrats, and the cultural and intellectual elites who back them.

B. Big business, Wall Street, and the powerful and privileged who represent them.

These are the two competing stories Americans are telling one another.

Yes, I know: It’s more complicated than this. In reality, the lousy economy is due to insufficient demand – the result of the nation’s almost unprecedented concentration of income at the top. The very rich don’t spend as much of their income as the middle. And since the housing bubble burst, the middle class hasn’t had the buying power to keep the economy going. That concentration of income, in turn, is due to globalization and technological change – along with unprecedented campaign contributions and lobbying designed to make the rich even richer and do nothing to help average Americans, insider trading, and political bribery.

So B is closer to the truth.

But A is the story Republicans and right-wingers tell. It’s a dangerous story because it deflects attention from the real problem and makes it harder for America to focus on the real solution – which is more widely shared prosperity. (I get into how we might do this in my new book, Aftershock.)

A is also the story President Obama is telling, indirectly, through his deficit commission, his freeze on federal pay, his freeze on discretionary spending, and his waivering on extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Most other Washington Democrats are falling into the same trap.

If Obama and the Democrats were serious about story B they’d at least mention it. They’d tell the nation that income and wealth haven’t been this concentrated at the top since 1928, the year before the Great Crash. They’d be indignant about the secret money funneled into midterm campaigns. They’d demand Congress pass the Disclose Act so the public would know where the money comes from.

Read more at: CommonDreams.org

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{Illustration by Lucia Whittaker}

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Sen Bernie Sanders Amazing Speech!

Friday, December 3rd, 2010




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How Germany got it right on the economy

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

How Germany got it right on the economy

It may be turkey week in America, but it’s goose month in Germany. In many restaurants, you can get goose in your salad and goose in your soup to go with your goose entrée. Diners fairly honk their way through November.

But then, Germans have something to honk about. Germany’s economy is the strongest in the world. Its trade balance – the value of its exports over its imports – is second only to China’s, which is all the more remarkable since Germany is home to just 82 million people. Its 7.5 percent unemployment rate – two percentage points below ours – is lower than at any time since right after reunification. Growth is robust, and real wages are rising.

It’s quite a turnabout for an economy that American and British bankers and economists derided for years as the sick man of Europe. German banks, they insisted, were too cautious and locally focused, while the German economy needed to slim down its manufacturing sector and beef up finance.

Wisely, the Germans declined the advice. Manufacturing still accounts for nearly a quarter of the German economy; it is just 11 percent of the British and U.S. economies (one reason the United States and Britain are struggling to boost their exports). Nor have German firms been slashing wages and off-shoring – the American way of keeping competitive – to maintain profits.

One key to Germany’s miracle is the mittelstand, as the family-owned small and mid-size manufacturing firms that dominate the economy are known. Last week, I visited AWS Achslagerwerk, a factory of one such firm, in the farmlands of Saxony-Anhalt, about two hours west of Berlin. As in many such companies, this factory turns out specialized products: axle-box housings for Chinese and German high-speed trains, machine tools requiring climate-controlled precision measurement. With annual revenue of 24 million euros, the factory has won a significant share of the world market, though it employs only 175 production workers.

Read more at: Washington Post

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{Photography by unukorno}

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Debt crisis escalates in Europe; fears grow about Spain

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Debt crisis escalates in Europe; fears grow about Spain

LONDON — The debt crisis in Europe escalated sharply Friday as investors dumped Spanish and Portuguese bonds in panicked selling, substantially heightening the prospect that one or both countries may need to join troubled Ireland and Greece in soliciting international bailouts.

The draining confidence in Western Europe’s weakest economies threatened to upend bond markets, destabilize the euro and drag out the global economic recovery if it is not quickly contained. It also underscored the mounting problems facing countries that during the past decade have both over-borrowed and overspent, and are now in danger of losing investor faith in their ability to make good on their massive piles of debt.

The perceived risk of debt defaults in Portugal and Spain drove their borrowing costs to near-record highs Friday, with the interest rate demanded on Portuguese bonds at a point where it could effectively cut the Lisbon government off from raising fresh cash to run the country.

As a result, Portugal was coming under pressure to immediately request a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Officials in Lisbon responded by pushing through a painful round of budget cuts meant to reassure investors and rejected claims that they needed an emergency lifeline. Italian and Belgian borrowing costs also rose Friday.

Read more at: Washington Post

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{Photography by Paul Chaloner}

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Currency Crisis! So What Happens If The Dollar And The Euro Both Collapse?

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Currency Crisis! So What Happens If The Dollar And The Euro Both Collapse?

Some analysts are warning that the U.S. dollar is in danger of collapse because of the exploding U.S. government debt, the horrific U.S. trade deficit and the new round of quantitative easing recently announced by the Federal Reserve. Other analysts are warning the the euro is in danger of collapse because of the very serious sovereign debt crisis that is affecting nations such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and Spain. So what happens if the dollar and the euro both collapse? Well, it would certainly throw the current world financial order into a state of chaos, but what would emerge from the ashes? Would the nations of the world go back to using dozens of different national currencies or would we see a truly global currency emerge for the very first time?

Up until recently, the idea of a world currency was absolutely unthinkable for most people. In fact, the notion that all of the major nations around the globe would agree to a single currency still seems far-fetched to most analysts. However, if enough “chaos” is produced by a concurrent collapse of the U.S. dollar and the euro, would that be enough to get the major powers around the world to agree to a new financial world order?

Let’s hope not, but it is getting hard to deny that we are heading for a major currency crisis, and if the U.S. dollar and/or the euro collapse, the world will certainly never be the same afterwards.

In case you missed it, China and Russia made a very big announcement the other day.

They told the world that instead of using the U.S. dollar to trade with each other, they will now be using their own national currencies.

Most Americans don’t realize it, but that is a very, very big deal.

Read more at: The Economic Collapse

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{Photography by Covilha}

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Eating the Irish

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Eating the Irish

What we need now is another Jonathan Swift.

Most people know Swift as the author of “Gulliver’s Travels.” But recent events have me thinking of his 1729 essay “A Modest Proposal,” in which he observed the dire poverty of the Irish, and offered a solution: sell the children as food. “I grant this food will be somewhat dear,” he admitted, but this would make it “very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.”

O.K., these days it’s not the landlords, it’s the bankers — and they’re just impoverishing the populace, not eating it. But only a satirist — and one with a very savage pen — could do justice to what’s happening to Ireland now.

The Irish story began with a genuine economic miracle. But eventually this gave way to a speculative frenzy driven by runaway banks and real estate developers, all in a cozy relationship with leading politicians. The frenzy was financed with huge borrowing on the part of Irish banks, largely from banks in other European nations.

Then the bubble burst, and those banks faced huge losses. You might have expected those who lent money to the banks to share in the losses. After all, they were consenting adults, and if they failed to understand the risks they were taking that was nobody’s fault but their own. But, no, the Irish government stepped in to guarantee the banks’ debt, turning private losses into public obligations.

Before the bank bust, Ireland had little public debt. But with taxpayers suddenly on the hook for gigantic bank losses, even as revenues plunged, the nation’s creditworthiness was put in doubt. So Ireland tried to reassure the markets with a harsh program of spending cuts.

Read more at: NYTimes.com

Related Articles:

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{Photography by Infomatique}

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Structure of Excuses

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Structure of Excuses

What can be done about mass unemployment? All the wise heads agree: there are no quick or easy answers. There is work to be done, but workers aren’t ready to do it — they’re in the wrong places, or they have the wrong skills. Our problems are “structural,” and will take many years to solve.

But don’t bother asking for evidence that justifies this bleak view. There isn’t any. On the contrary, all the facts suggest that high unemployment in America is the result of inadequate demand — full stop. Saying that there are no easy answers sounds wise, but it’s actually foolish: our unemployment crisis could be cured very quickly if we had the intellectual clarity and political will to act.

In other words, structural unemployment is a fake problem, which mainly serves as an excuse for not pursuing real solutions.

. . .

I’ve been looking at what self-proclaimed experts were saying about unemployment during the Great Depression; it was almost identical to what Very Serious People are saying now. Unemployment cannot be brought down rapidly, declared one 1935 analysis, because the work force is “unadaptable and untrained. It cannot respond to the opportunities which industry may offer.” A few years later, a large defense buildup finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs — and suddenly industry was eager to employ those “unadaptable and untrained” workers.

. . .

Read more at: The New York Times

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{Photography by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann}

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