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THE WEB OF PRECARIOUSNESS
By Gaither Stewart
Precariousness looms like a black cloud over the continent of Europe. The fragility of human life and of the life style generations of westerners are accustomed to today rages like a modern plague. Precariousness is a contagious disease. It leaps from worker to worker, from class to class. No wonder that life in our times has never seemed more temporary. Permanence belongs to another age.
Twenty-eight years ago, Ronald Reagan used the severe economic downturn of 1980-82 to implement an economic philosophy that not only gave force and meaning to a wide range of initiatives but also offered a way back to sustained economic growth. Is there a similarly powerful animating idea behind Obamanomics?
I believe there is -- and it's not a return to big government.
The expansive and expensive forays of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board into Wall Street notwithstanding, President Barack Obama's 10-year budget (whose projections may prove wildly optimistic if the economy fails to rebound by early next year) presents a remarkably conservative picture. In 10 years, taxes are expected to fall to around 19% of GDP, a lower level than the late 1990s. Spending is expected to drop to around 22.5% of GDP, about where it was under Ronald Reagan -- including nondefense discretionary spending at about 3.6% of GDP, its lowest since data on this were first collected in 1962.
The real distinction between Obamanomics and Reaganomics involves government's role in achieving growth and broad-based prosperity. The animating idea of Reaganomics was that the economy grows best from the top down. Lower taxes on the wealthy prompts them to work harder and invest more. When they do so, everyone benefits. Neither Reagan nor the apostles of supply-side economics explicitly promised that such benefits would "trickle down" to everyone else but this was broadly understood to be the justification.
Global investors ponder implications of US dollar collapse
By Alex Lantier | WSWS
The very fact that Barron's is imagining such a scenario indicates the power of the objective tensions building up inside world capitalism. It is considering a situation in which major US creditors such as China refuse to lend to the US government, forcing Washington to cut spending. The result would be a truly explosive social situation, as the US government told the population it no longer had money to fund social spending, after trillions of dollars had already been handed out to the banks and the super-rich.
The world bourgeoisie is beginning to consider the consequences of the huge deficit spending and money-printing operations that the Obama administration is using to fund its bailouts of Wall Street and major banks. As these policies increasingly raise questions about the value of the US dollar, commentators are in particular pondering the desirability and implications of a diminished international role for the American currency.
At his March 24 press conference, President Obama made his first public comment on recent Chinese proposals for an international currency overseen by the International Monetary Fund. Obama said: "As far as confidence in the US economy or the dollar, I would just point out that the dollar is extraordinarily strong right now. And the reason the dollar is strong right now is because investors consider the United States the strongest economy in the world, with the most stable political system in the world. So you don't have to take my word for it."
On Monday, Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, responded to criticisms of the Obama administration’s plan to subsidize private purchases of toxic assets. “I don’t know of any economist,” he declared, “who doesn’t believe that better functioning capital markets in which assets can be traded are a good idea.”
Leave aside for a moment the question of whether a market in which buyers have to be bribed to participate can really be described as “better functioning.” Even so, Mr. Summers needs to get out more. Quite a few economists have reconsidered their favorable opinion of capital markets and asset trading in the light of the current crisis.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, the corporate state is here.
WILLIAM GREIDER: The corporate state is here. And I'd say, let's not argue over that. The fact is, if the Congress goes down the road I see them going down, they will institutionalize the corporate state in a way that will be severely damaging to any possibility of restoring democracy. And I want people to grab their pitch forks, yes, and be unruly. Get in the streets. Be as noisy and as nonviolently provocative as you can be. And stop the politicians from going down that road. And let me add a lot of politicians need that to be able to stand up. Our President needs that to be able to stand up.
For years best-selling author William Greider sounded the alarm about Washington's unholy alliance with Wall Street and the failure of the Federal Reserve and other regulators to take preventive measures to avoid disaster. Now, he offers some suggestions to the question everyone is asking: "What do we do now?"
Longer version with more detail and advice: HERE.
For Meetings with Congress Members and Senators
During April 4-19, 2009, Recess
Adjust to your communities’ priorities and to fit your representative and senators. Make the case to them of the necessary trade-off in defunding war in order to fund human needs. Make alliances with activist groups wishing to pressure elected officials on domestic funding needs and workers’ rights.
Oppose Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Pakistan
A bipartisan group of fourteen members of Congress recently wrote to the president asking him to reconsider his proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan. Your representative and senators should send similar letters, and should include opposition to missile strikes or the introduction of troops into Pakistan.
Hey DCr's! “Rethinking the Industrial Revolution” - What is Capitalism Anyway, and Where did it Come From?
What is Capitalism Anyway, and Where did it Come From?
Who: A discussion by Mike Zmolek, PhD
When: April 9th, 2009, from 6:30-8:00 pm
Where: In the Cullen Room at the NEW 5th & K location of Busboys & Poets, 1025 5th Street NW, Washington DC 20001
As the global capitalist system plunges into its worst crisis since the Great Depression, take some time out to hear this primer on how capitalism got going in the first place. Drawing on a body of recent scholarship which seeks to trace the specific historical path by which capitalism developed out of the middle ages, D.C. resident Mike Zmolek will discuss the findings of his recently completed doctoral dissertation—15 years in the making—titled “Rethinking the Industrial Revolution.” The conclusions may surprise you, and capitalism’s early crises might seem only too familiar.
Please RSVP to Mike.
By Dave Lindorff
George Santayana once famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But what about those who don’t just ignore history, but who hire and take counsel from those who committed historic follies in the past?
Back in November 1999, Congress passed legislation pushed by then Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), rescinding the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. The measure, backed by the Clinton administration, and overwhelmingly passed by the Senate (90-8) and the House (362-57), opened the way for banks to merge with investment banks and insurance companies, and led directly to the current financial cataclysm.
Here's someone willing to look for fundamental solutions to the larger problem: GO HERE.
By Senator Bernie Sanders
The “Masters of the Universe” on Wall Street – through their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior – have plunged this country into a deep recession causing millions of Americans to lose their jobs, their homes, their savings and their hope for the future. In order to fully understand the cause of this fiasco, I have introduced legislation calling for a thorough investigation of the financial meltdown and the prosecution of those CEOs who broke the law. The culture of greed, fraud and excessive speculation must come to an end.
In the midst of this financial disaster, one of the great frustrations that I hear from my constituents is that while taxpayers are spending hundreds of billions bailing out major financial institutions, and while these big banks are getting near-zero interest rate loans from the Fed, these very same financial institutions are now charging Americans 20 percent or 30 percent interest rates on their credit cards. In fact, one-third of all credit card holders in this country are now paying interest rates above 20 percent and as high as 41 percent – more than double what they paid in interest in 1990. Recently, some major institutions such as Bank of America have informed responsible cardholders that their interest rates would be doubled to as high as 28 percent, without explaining why the increase was taking place.
By David Swanson
Obama's Thursday "town hall" featuring questions submitted online produced some interesting comments from our president. In response to a question from college students he explained that making student loans directly from the government, without passing them through banks and giving profits to banks from public money, makes more sense. But he claimed that giving far more money than we've ever loaned to students to banks in hopes that they will loan it to businesses is the only way to save our economy.
President Obama's claim for the need to give or loan so much money to very wealthy people is that they will loan it to small businesses. So, why not just give it or loan it to small businesses? And how many are trying to borrow money without success? Aren't more struggling to pay the debts they've got?
How Does This Solution Sound?
NATIONALIZE: Experts agree on the means -- Insolvent banks that are too big to fail must incur a temporary FDIC intervention - no more blank check taxpayer handouts. (see Krugman on nationalization)
REORGANIZE: Current CEOs and board members must be removed and bonuses wiped out. The financial elite must share in the cost of what they have caused. (see Simon Johnson on reorganizing)
DECENTRALIZE: Banks must be broken up and sold back to the private market with new antitrust rules in place-- new banks, managed by new people. Any bank that's "too big to fail" means that it's too big for a free market to function. (see Mike Lux on decentralization)
By David Swanson
Obama's "town hall" featuring questions submitted online produced some interesting comments from our president. In response to a question from college students he explained that making student loans directly, without passing them through banks and giving profits to banks from public money, makes more sense. But he claimed that giving far more money than we've ever loaned to students to banks to loan to businesses is the only way to save our economy.
I missed the beginning and came in as Obama was saying our economy could out-compete anybody else's. I'd be happy if it just outperformed itself and stopped treating the rest of the world as competition. I started taking notes:
by: Chris Bowers
|There are a few headlines trying desperately to portray some sense of major conflict between House Democrats and the Obama administration on the budget. The attempted narrative is to portray Democrats as conservatives reacting against excess spending from the Obama administration. For example, here is how the Washington Post describes it in their headline:
House Democrats Slash More Than $100B From Obama's Plan
However, this is a really flimsy, concern troll narrative. Once you read further, all indications are that the House blueprint has actually increased non-bailout public spending, yet still reduced deficit projections and the possibility for conflict over, President Obama's budget. In the extended entry, I explain how
|Chris Bowers :: House Democrats Improve Obama's Budget|
|Three notable aspects of the House budget blueprint:
READ THE REST AT OPEN LEFT.
AIG is chump change -- let's find corporate America's hidden billions
It's time to reform offshore banking, and see what untaxed wealth big business is hiding in overseas tax shelters.
By Joe Conason | Salon
The popular urge to claw back the bogus bonuses paid by American International Group is irresistible and fully justified, but should the Treasury someday retrieve every single bonus dollar, that total of $165 million will make no difference to anyone except a few disgruntled traders. From the jaded perspective of the financiers, the uproar over the AIG bonuses may provide a welcome distraction from far more important (and lucrative) abuses in the world's offshore tax havens.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal again found himself carrying the Republican mantle opposite a primetime appearance from President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying Republicans must be ready to defy the president when they disagree with his policies. He also joked about his widely panned response to Obama's address to Congress last month.
"We are now in the position of being the loyal opposition," Jindal said at a Republican congressional fundraising dinner that only by coincidence fell on the same night as Obama's news conference. "The right question to ask is not if we want the president to fail or succeed, but whether we want America to succeed."
By Cindy Sheehan
No we are not, that's the point.
Tonight, President Obama basically said that we can't demonize every investor who earns a profit, because "we are all in this together." Sorry, but I am going to have to call a big fat "bull-shit" on this one.
When Obama said "we" did he have a mouse in his pocket? Obama, and his family have a very opulent, slave-built roof over their heads. He travels on the public nickel, his children attend an exclusive Washington, DC private school that has organic food on its menu, and has health care that covers everyone in his family from head to toe and side to side and inside out.
Even though he and every member of the administration, Congress and the Supreme Court are not hurting for anything, the bastard (sorry if your parents weren't married when you were conceived) Wall Street banksters are receiving billions of dollars of government welfare and are not so good about being in "this together" with us.
I reported back in February on the case of Gary Gensler, the former Goldman Sachs employee and derivatives cheerleader who President Obama nominated to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Gensler’s nomination sailed through the Senate Agricultural Committee but Senator Bernie Sanders has placed a hold on the nomination (as has a second senator who is as yet unnamed). A statement from Sanders’s office said:
At one point last week, the price of a barrel of crude oil -- which had risen as high as $147 last July and, with the global economic meltdown, hit a low of $32 in 2009 -- rebounded above $51. Prices at the local gas pump are expected to rise as well in the coming weeks. However, given a worldwide falloff in oil use, these price jumps may not hold for long. Still, cheap or not, oil and natural gas (as well as coal) are what drives global civilization, and that's clearly not going to change any time soon.
By Dave Lindorff
Wait a minute! Did I hear correctly? Did Treasury Secretary and former New York Federal Reserve Bank screw-up Tim Geithner really tell a House Financial Services Committee today that he needed “new powers” to allow the federal government to take control of non-bank financial corporations whose actions threaten the financial system or the economy and “break them up”?
The subject under discussion at the hearing was AIG, and Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, under attack for those AIG “bonus payments” to executives, were trying to talk tough about the evil insurance giant.
But aren’t the powers that Geithner is calling for exactly the powers that he and Bernanke already have in the case of the banking industry?
Yes they are.
[When Truman tried this he was nearly impeached and the Supreme Court stopped it. -- DS]
By John Byrne, RAW STORY
Judiciary Committee Announces Plan to Fight Fraud and Protect Taxpayers | Press Release
March 20, 2009
WASHINGTON (DC) – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr.(D-Mich.) announced that the Committee will consider a variety of initiatives to increase vigilance and accountability of taxpayer dollars by preventing and combating fraud, including misuse of taxpayer funds that have been, or will be, expended as part of the government’s economic recovery activities since the Fall of 2008. Hearings are expected to occur during the week of March 30, 2009.
Initiatives under consideration by the Committee as part of this review are expected to include:
- Ensuring effective investigation and prosecution, including effective and severe penalties, for fraud committed in the expenditure of economic stimulus funding
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has launched a new website for consumers seeking information about the Obama Administration's Making Home Affordable loan modification and refinancing program. MakingHomeAffordable.gov offers features including interactive self-assessment tools that will empower borrowers to determine if they're eligible to participate and calculate the monthly mortgage payment reductions they could stand to realize under the Making Home Affordable program.
Obama Economic Program Increases America's Bondage to Wall Street Billionaires: It’s Time for a New Monetary System
Obama Economic Program Increases America's Bondage to Wall Street Billionaires: It’s Time for a New Monetary System
by Richard C. Cook
This article previews the author’s new six-part video series scheduled for release April 2: “Credit as a Public Utility: The Solution to the Economic Crisis.”
The Obama administration is spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to persuade the banking system to restart lending. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke plans to create hundreds of billions more of new bank reserves by purchasing mortgage-related debt. With Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner working together, “the initiative will seek to entice private investors, including big hedge funds, to participate by offering billions of dollars in low-interest loans to finance the purchases. The government will share the risks if the assets fall further in price.” (Martin Crutsinger, AP) Finally, President Obama is taking over the distinction of being the biggest Keynesian in history with a fiscal year 2009 deficit of $1.75 trillion.
The cancer of debt grows by the day. According to Michael Hodges’ famed “Grandfather Economic Report”: “America has become more a debt ‘junkie’ than ever before, with total debt of $57 trillion, and the highest debt ratio in history. That's $186, 717 per man, woman and child.”
"Down the Memory Hole," Alan Greenspan Style
by Stephen Lendman
He's back and in denial in a March 11 Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined: "The Fed Didn't Cause the Housing Bubble." He lied, the way he did throughout his career and for 18.5 years as Fed chairman. How else could he have kept the job, be knighted in the UK for his "contribution to global economic stability, wisdom and skill," then afterwards be extolled by the Money Trust he enriched.
So now he's preserving his "legacy" by expunging its dark side the way Orwell described in 1984 - "down the memory hole," a convenient slot for "any document....due for destruction," politically inconvenient truths to be erased to preserve only sanitized versions for the public. It's called historical revisionism, but even some on the right aren't convinced.
David Walker: Plan B Move to Vancouver
Former Comptroller General for the United States says that he believes things can be turned around economically with a lot of work, or Plan B move to Vancouver.
Wall Street's Economic Crimes Against Humanity
By refusing to consider the consequences of their actions, those who created the financial crisis exemplify the banality of evil, writes Shoshana Zuboff
By Shoshana Zuboff | Business Week
As in war, that emotional distance made it easier to operate in one's own narrow interests, without the usual feelings of empathy that alert us to the pain of others and define us as human. The narcissistic business model provided the modern day "circumstances" that enabled individuals to ignore the poisonous consequences of their choices. This paved the way for a full-scale administrative economic massacre.
The financiers at AIG were awarded millions in bonuses because their contracts were based on the transactions they completed, not the consequences of those transactions. A 32-year-old mortgage broker told me: "I figured my job was to get the transaction done ... Whatever came after the transaction - that was on him, not me." A long list of business executives have reaped sumptuous rewards even though they fractured the world's economy, destroyed trillions of dollars in value, and disfigured millions of lives.