Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Reminder

Occasionally people come to this blog hoping to find a way to contact me directly by way of making a comment.  Indeed, that works—all comments come to me for deciding whether to print them—most I do, although as a rule I don't allow anonymous comments.  There are easy to conceive circumstances that would force a person to cloak his or her identity, but in this country, Anonymous too often is a cover for incivility or worse.  I support anyone's right to say anything he or she wants as long as they attach to their comments an identifiable nom de plume or nom de guerre.

That said, if you are trying to contact me, do so through a comment, noting whether you want it posted, and including in the body of the message your email address—Blogger does not include your return email address in the comment it forwards to me.  It strips them off.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Fear and a Shrinking President

In today's Guardian Ha-Joon Chang observes that much of the current crisis has less to do with economic policies or lack thereof than with the failure of governments to curb the power of ratings agencies and financial institutions  that had just a few years ago brought the world to the brink of Depression.  Now, at the least, they have triggered a financial panic the likes of which have hot been seen by anyone living.

Panic—generalized, objectless fear—is driving this sell-off, which has drained trillions of dollars in valuation from the world's markets and caused investors to flee to U.S. Treasuries as one of the few safe investment havens.  That is correct: the Standard and Poor's downgrade of America's credit rating from triple A to double A-plus has had the effect of reinforcing  the  place of US. debt as the most secure in the world.  That fact alone ought to slow the panic, but it does not. 

The irony should be lost on no one that those trillions of losses would have covered increased taxes on the wealthy and still left trillions in profit that would not have vanished, because there would have been no panic. 

The Obama put himself in front of the world yesterday in an attempt,  we must assume to calm the markets.  He failed.  They have fallen more precipitously since he spoke, and the reason, I think, is that he failed to say, 'Basta!,' to the rating agencies and financial institutions.  'You have proved yourselves bad citizens, purveyors of false and misleading information for purposes of market manipulation.  We are going to rein you in, and if you won't be reined in, we are going to shut you down.'   That is a speech, the Obama lacks the ability and capacity to make.  Indeed, yesterday we saw a leader shrinking from, not rising to, the occasion.  

The result was more fear and more panicked selling.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Half-Baked Obama

Drew Westen, a psychology professor at Emory University, has a smart, damning, and ultimately depressing—for us—assessment of Barack Obama as president in the op-ed section of today's New York Times.   Obama's inability to lead—or his refusal to do so—has meant that he has squandered one of the great opportunities in history to change society in a way that benefits not special interests and wealthy individuals and corporations daily growing wealthier at the expense of working men and women but that improves the lives of those same workers, as welll as the  weak, old, frail, and disadvantaged.  Read Westen for the details and then shed a tear for alll of us.

Off the Workers

Using newly released U.S. commerce department figures, today's  New York Times lays out in dollars and cents the decline of the American worker.  The bottom line for those not wanting to read the story is that corporate profits have risen at the expense of workers, whose salaries and wages as a percentage of national income have fallen to below 50 percent by one measure and by any standard are near record lows.

Betraying Democracy

I had thought that the political establishment from all parties would go into full attack mode on the eejits at Standard and Poor's who downgraded the sovereign long-term debt of the United States because they didn't approve of the political process that pushed to the midnight hour before performing a technical task.  Well, la.   I don't care for that process either.  I especially don't care for the obstructionist Republicans and the self-negoitator, the current Republican president.   But I like even less having a credit rating agency or any other private enterprise or group presume to tell any 'democratic' government that it does not run properly, which is effectively telling the people how to act and behave.  

The Congress and president should be united in their outrage at this arrogant assault on democracy.  They should do now what they should have done in 2007 when the subprime crisis began to unfold—break up the huge banks and credit ranking agencies and other financial institutions responsible for the subsequent economic meltdown.  The failure of our elected officials to do so betrays the oath they swore to the Constitution.  Whether they act out of ignorance, hypocrisy, corruption, or any or all of the above matters little.  Their failure to defend the fundamentral principles of democracy disqualfies them from office.  They should be removed.  

Friday, August 05, 2011

time to deep six the credit rating extortionists

With Standard and Poor's downgrading of U.S. credit worthiness, it should be clear that the macabre debt ceiling dance the U.S. president and Congress just performed was not about credit worthiness or fiscal policy or economic fundamentals.  It was a battle between extortionist credit rating agencies—Moody's, Fitch, and Standard and Poor's—and most recently the U.S. government, although Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and now Spain and Italy have also been engaged.  As usual, President Obama rolled without much of a fight, and Congress went along after multiple public tantrums only to have Standard and Poor's declare the world's largest economy incapable of meeting its long-term obligations. S&P, Fitch, and  Moody's were involved in giving their credit blessings to those trash securities that have brought us to this state, so why on the face of it should we believe anything they say?  The agencies might say they are simply providing advice to investors, but they are really economic terrorists profiting from the instability they bring to the markets with their pronouncements  on a nation's or business's credit worthiness. Let them pass judgment from behind bars—that's where they belong.

The real paralysis in the U.S. is political. and it  is due to the large and growing disconnect between the people and our elected officials who serve only monied interests and their own venality.  We need a mechanism for dissolving Congress and calling new elections.  We also need to recognize that the current electoral system is corrupt—in thrall to the rich—and I include the President with Congress.   The size of the Congress should be doubled at least and people seeking to represent those smaller districts should actually have to go meet and talk to their constituents.  I say that because of a deep suspicion that a fundamental reason people don't vote is that they don't know the candidates. The candidates don't know them either, leaving them to represent anyone willing to contribute toward their permanent advertising budget.