There’s a pretty fair chance that I won’t get much done in the way of writing today, or reading for that matter. However, here’s some stuff from folks who have the time to do both. After all, if I can’t write, I might as well spotlight the work of those who can. That’s what I do with most of my time anyway; reading, copying, pasting and promoting others’ writing & idea, as opposed to working on any of my own.
This is all stuff I’ve read, copied, and pasted in the course of my daily work. So, I’m doing the same here now. Because those who can, do. And those who can’t copy, paste, and promote the work of those who can…
Looking at the current market meltdown, I suspect the history books will record it as a 21st century version of 1929 – 1934. In both cases, the crisis was brought on by the natural effect of unrestrained “free market” ideology. After the panics of the late 19th century, Teddy Roosevelt was swept into office on a promise to break the power of the corporations (i.e. restrict their freedom to create monopolies) and introduce some regulations on the financial markets (i.e. more restrictions on freedom). In the 1920s, we backed away from or found a way around these early regulations and the good times rolled – until the excesses became so great that people lost trust and everything began to crash in 1929. FDR laid the foundation for America’s 20th century growth and creation of a middle class by severely restricting the freedom of both the financial markets and of corporations, and instituting a highly progressive income tax. During that period of high marginal tax rates (often above 90% in the top bracket)* and highly restrictive business and financial regulation, the American people and American business thrived. Indeed, during that period America passed all its international competitors and became the world’s economic powerhouse.
But success engenders greed. People from all walks began to think that they would be even better off if they could get rid of taxes and regulations. So beginning with JFK, America started down the road to economic Libertarianism. “The government wastes my money, gives it to the lazy and indolent, sends it overseas as foreign aid.” “I can spend my hard-earned dollars better than the government.” “I earned it, what right do they have to tax it away?” “The free market is the most efficient allocator of resources.”
And so we undid or sidestepped most of the regulations and tax policies that had been in place. We privatized everything including more and more of the military. We allowed mergers to create firms so large that the public dare not let them fail. We created new financial instruments that were entirely unregulated (i.e. derivatives). We truly built a lightly taxed, lightly regulated, free-market economy.
And what happened? Surprise! 1929 all over again. Same philosophy, same result.
The bailout crisis: compensation restrictions are not just a matter of fairness, Jeff Madrick – The Huffington Post:
The so-called bailout package contains controversial restraints on executive compensation. Some may think these restrictions are just about getting even with the financial community. But this issue is not just about fairness. Compensation excess is at the heart of this crisis.
Are the people managing financial firms provided incentives to encourage them to manage these firms efficiently and for the long-term benefit of owners? That is the goal of good compensation. Reward executives -the owners’ agents–for jobs well-done. Economists call this an “agency problem.”
But in the financial community, and increasingly in the corporate community, executives were able to game the system. They produce short-term benefits for themselves that are not aligned with the long-term good of the firm. Meantime, they pumped up the bubble and took undue risks. They were given incentives to mismanage their firms and the nation’s finances.
McCain’t, Jon Rynn – Gristmill:
The Republican party has a problem. They have based much of their power, over the last several decades, on the idea of ever-expanding (almost exclusively white) suburbs. The thinking was, as those suburbs become less and less dense — as one wag put it, the further away the houses are from each other — the more those suburbanites will vote Republican. As William Levitt, the builder of the first modern suburb after World War II said, “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist.”
Now that strategy is stalling, and I have a feeling that it will soon go into reverse. As James Howard Kunstler and others have argued, the mortgage meltdown is not simply the result of a a non-regulated financial system gone wild, but also the last gasp of growth of an automobile-and-oil-centered society. McCain couldn’t possibly solve the climate change or peak oil or industrial agriculture or ecosystem destruction problems, because these all require a greater efficiency of resource and energy use, which means a move towards a more urban lifestyle and the contraction of the Republican base. McCain simply won’t do it — exhibit A, he wants to kill Amtrak.
How did the Republican party get into this box?
We Have the Bailout Money — We’re Spending it on War, Chalmers Johnson – The Nation:
There has been much moaning, air-sucking and outrage about the $700 billion that the US government is thinking of throwing away on rich New York bankers who have been ripping us off for the past few years and then letting greed drive their businesses into a variety of ditches. In fact, we dole out similar amounts of money every year in the form of payoffs to the armed services, the military-industrial complex and powerful senators and representatives allied with the Pentagon.
On Wednesday, September 24, right in the middle of the fight over billions of taxpayer dollars slated to bail out Wall Street, the House of Representatives passed a $612 billion defense authorization bill for 2009 without a murmur of public protest or any meaningful press comment at all. (The New York Times gave the matter only three short paragraphs buried in a story about another appropriations measure.)
The defense bill includes $68.6 billion to pursue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is only a down payment on the full yearly cost of these wars. (The rest will be raised through future supplementary bills.) It also included a 3.9 percent pay raise for military personnel, and $5 billion in pork-barrel projects not even requested by the administration or the Secretary of Defense. It also fully funds the Pentagon’s request for a radar site in the Czech Republic, a harebrained scheme sure to infuriate the Russians just as much as a Russian missile base in Cuba once infuriated us. The whole bill passed by a vote of 392-39 and will fly through the Senate, where a similar bill has already been approved. And no one will even think to mention it in the same breath with the discussion of bailout funds for dying investment banks and the like.
This is pure waste. Our annual spending on “national security”–meaning the defense budget plus all military expenditures hidden in the budgets for the departments of Energy, State, Treasury and Veterans Affairs, the CIA and numerous other places in the executive branch–already exceeds a trillion dollars, an amount larger than that of all other national defense budgets combined. Not only was there no significant media coverage of this latest appropriation, there have been no signs of even the slightest urge to inquire into the relationship between our bloated military, our staggering weapons expenditures, our extravagantly expensive failed wars abroad and the financial catastrophe on Wall Street.
That’s all I got. I ran out of time to copy and paste more. But, hey, at least it’s content. Right?