Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rejoice! Wall Street Rules Absolutely (Along With Management Companies & Mossad)

Our man in Havana (whoops, I meant New York/D.C./etc., etc.) reports what's really happening to our well being. And the Wall Street bubble being a surprise? Ha ha! On US!!!! Just as I reported back in September of 2008 . . . and his prescriptive is right on the money. Let's see how quickly they figure out how to change them now that someone is voicing this at the top of the economics pyramid. Do not be afraid to raise your voice. Loudly. Constantly. Call the real cops. But first: Quiet! Dean Baker is speaking (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

The middle class is getting whacked by the Great Recession. Fifteen million people are out of work, another 9 million workers can only find part-time jobs, and millions more have given up looking for work altogether. Those lucky enough to be employed are unlikely to see any substantial wage gains for years to come. Millions of homeowners are facing the loss of their home and more than ten million are underwater in their mortgage. Most of the huge baby boom cohort is approaching retirement with little other than Social Security to support them, now that the collapse of the housing bubble has destroyed their home equity and much of the rest of their savings.

This pain is infuriating for two reasons.

First, this was an entirely preventable disaster. The housing bubble was easy to see. Competent economists had long warned of its dangers.

The second reason why the current situation is infuriating is that we know how to get the economy out of this mess. We just need to boost demand. This can be done either with much more government stimulus, more aggressive monetary policy from the Fed, or pushing the dollar down to boost exports. If this disaster was preventable and we know how to get out of it, why didn't our leaders try to stop it before it happened? Why don't they take the steps necessary now to get the economy moving again?

The answer to both these questions is simple; the politicians work for someone else. On Election Day, the politicians might need our votes, but they won't get to be serious contenders unless they've gotten the campaign contributions of the big money crew. And the moneyed elite has been using its control of the political process to ensure that an ever larger share of the economy's output is redistributed upward in their direction.

The reason that there was little interest in cracking down on the housing bubble is that Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and the rest were making a fortune from the financial shenanigans that fueled the bubble. Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin personally pocketed over $100 million from this fun. Why would they want the government to rein it in?

Of course, when the bubble did finally blow and threaten their banks with bankruptcy, the Wall Street crew just ran to the government for help. And they got trillions of dollars in loans and loan guarantees to ensure that they would not be victims of the crisis they had created. Now that they are back on their feet, with Wall Street profits and bonuses both again at near record levels, they see little reason to concern themselves with the measures that might set the economy right for the rest of us.

After all, the steps necessary to revitalize the economy could mean some inflation. This would reduce the value of the debt owned by the wealthy. And the wealthy don't see any reason that they should risk any of their wealth just for the good of the economy.

We have enormous ground to cover to restore an economy that works for the vast majority, but the first step is to know where we are. The upward redistribution of the last three decades has nothing to do with the market and a belief in "market fundamentalism." This is about a process where the rich and powerful have rewritten the rules to make themselves richer and more powerful.

For example, they wrote trade rules that were designed to put downward pressure on the wages of the bulk of the U.S. workforce by placing manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in China and other developing countries. This had nothing to do with a belief in "free trade." They did not try to subject lawyers, doctors or other highly paid workers to the same sort of international competition. They only wanted international competition to put downward pressure on the wages of workers in the middle and bottom, not those at the top.

This elite has instituted a system of corporate governance that allows top executives to pilfer companies at the expense of their shareholders and its workers. Top executives are overseen only by a board of directors who owe their hugely overpaid sinecures to the executives they supervise. And of course the Wall Street barons themselves are given a license to gamble with the implicit promise that government picks up their tab when they lose.

No progressive movement will make any progress until we understand the battle we are fighting. Our income is a cost to the rich. They will look to cut it wherever they can, whether this is wages for private sector workers, pensions for public employees, or Social Security for retirees. That is their target. We have to fight back using the same logic.

Their income is our cost - the multimillion dollar bonuses for the Wall Street wizards is a direct drain on the economy. So are the bloated paychecks of top executives and their lackey boards. Progressives must be prepared to use all the same tactics to bring down the income of the rich and powerful that they have used to reduce the income of everyone else.

This means restructuring the rules of corporate governance to put serious downward pressure on the pay of top executives. The highest paid workers (doctors, lawyers, and economists) must be subjected to international competition in the same way as manufacturing workers have been subjected to international competition. And, we should sharply limit the extent of the patent or copyright protections that are exploited by the drug industry and the entertainment and software industries.

We have to put the focus on the ways the rich have rigged the rules and place this at the center of political debate. The three decade-long battle over tax cuts for the rich is important, but at the end of the day it is a side show. If we let them steal all the money at the onset, it really doesn't make much difference if they end up letting us tax a little of it back.

I hope you read it all. It's the best explication for cause, effect and action that I've read yet. We certainly need it right about now. And then we have:
The Great Management Consultancy Scam - How it Could Be Coming for Your Job
I'm guessing that Arianna isn't as rich as she thought she'd be? It's quite an exposé on her peers (and I turned down the opp to work for the George May fake company due to integrity - not even starvation could have made me partake of this scam). She does get rather well paid for this though. Doesn't she? (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

In the long fake boom of the Nineties and Noughties, we were sold a thousand scams. End government regulation of the financial system! Turn banks into casinos! Pay CEOs 500 times more than their staff! Bow, bow, bow before our mansion-dwelling overlords and the Total Efficiency they will bring! Yet from under the rubble left by these delusions, one of the greatest scams has skipped out unscathed, and it is now successfully selling itself as a solution to the fading of the boom-light. It is probably in your workplace now, or coming soon. Its name? Management consultancy.

There are now half a million management consultants in the world, and they all grumble that they face one question wherever they go: yes, but what is it that you actually do? They claim to be able to enter any organization, watch its workers for a short period, and then -- using graphs, algorithms, and a jargon that makes quantum physics look like Sesame Street -- render it dramatically more efficient, for a fee. They are everywhere: in the US, AT&T (to pluck a random company) spent $500m on them in just five years, while the British state will soon be spending more on management consultants than on upgrading its nuclear weapons.

Yet the process of management consultancy has always been shrouded in priestly secrecy. Over the past few years there has been a string of memoirs by highly successful former management consultants, finally pulling back the flow-charts. David Craig gives a typical explanation of what the consultants Actually Do. After getting a degree specializing in romantic poetry, he was astonished to be hired by a prestigious management consultancy, given three weeks training, and then dropped into major corporations to tell them how to run their oil rigs, menswear stores, and factories, for tens of thousands of pounds a pop. In his brave memoir Rip Off! he explains: "We were proud of the way we used to make things up as we went along... It's like robbing a bank but legal. We could take somebody straight off the street, teach them a few simple tricks in a couple of hours and easily charge them out to our clients for more than £7000 per week." It consisted, he says, of "lies, lies and even more lies."

He worked to a simple model, which is common in the industry. He had to watch how a workforce behaved for a week - and then tell the company's bosses, every time, that they had 30 percent too many staff and only his consultancy could figure out who should be culled. If he calculated they actually had the right amount of staff, he was told by his bosses not to be so ridiculous and do his sums again: where was the money for them in a properly-staffed company? The company had to be POPed - People Off Payroll.

Of course, this advice was often disastrous. His company was sent into a chain of 500 menswear shops. They advised them to cut staff by (surprise!) 30 percent, and to replace most full-time staff with part-timers. The result? The full-time employees had been highly motivated, because they wanted a career in the company; the part-timers only wanted a little extra cash. So motivation levels in the company collapsed, and with it the standard of service. The company was bankrupt within a few years.

Yes, you might say, but surely he was just a bad management consultant. The rest must get results. The evidence suggests not. The Cranfield School of Management studied 170 companies who had used management consultants, and it discovered just 36 percent of them were happy with the outcome - while two thirds judged them to be useless or harmful. A medicine with that failure-rate would be taken off the shelves.

Matthew Stewart, another former consultant, summarizes his high flying years in the industry by saying: "I felt like a snake oil salesmen without snake oil." When he was sent into a company, he was told to use complex formulae to analyze the productivity of its staff, but he soon realized that the results were "nearly random... Similar results could have been achieved by having four monkeys throw darts at a few matrices." Yet on this basis, he was taking a fortune in payments, and firing thousands of productive people.

The recession has given a fresh burst to this industry, as corporations beg to be told where to apply the leeches. The number of senior consultants has swollen by 10 percent in the past year, while the number employed by local government has grown by 11 percent.

But there is a growing body of academic research showing that the strategies pushed by these consultancies are in fact disastrous - and hasten the collapse of a company or service. Professor Wayne Cascio of the University of Colorado has studied the relative costs and benefits of POPing your workforce. Corporations and governments are receptive to the idea that the quickest, easiest way to save money is to fire workers. But Cascio has shown that, most of the time, the costs outweigh the gains. Obviously, you have to immediately find large amounts of redundancy and severance pay. But the costs don't stop there.

Your workforce becomes very nervous - and a nervous workforce is dramatically less productive and less innovative. The best people leave. The service to the customer deteriorates - so they abandon you even more.

Please read the whole article for the rest of the facts and figures. And start making a noise, people! I know I have.

And from our best source on such intelligence matters, Philip Giraldi, we learn the following. How many Israeli spies can you name that were actually caught and tried? (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Israeli government claims that it does not spy on the United States are intended for the media and popular consumption. The reality is that Israel’s intelligence agencies target the United States intensively, particularly in pursuit of military and dual-use civilian technology. Among nations considered to be friendly to Washington, Israel leads all others in its active espionage directed against American companies and the Defense Department. It also dominates two commercial sectors that enable it to extend its reach inside America’s domestic infrastructure: airline and telecommunications security.

Israel is believed to have the ability to monitor nearly all phone records originating in the United States, while numerous Israeli air-travel security companies are known to act as the local Mossad stations.

As tensions with Iran increase, sources in the counterintelligence community report that Israeli agents have become more aggressive in targeting Muslims living in the United States as well as in operating against critics. There have been a number of cases reported to the FBI about Mossad officers who have approached leaders in Arab-American communities and have falsely represented themselves as “U.S. intelligence.” Because few Muslims would assist an Israeli, this is done to increase the likelihood that the target will cooperate. It’s referred to as a “false flag” operation.

Well, all righty then. We knew the fraudulent reporting on Iran's nuclear status had kicked into high gear. It's nice to put a documented name on the authorship isn't it?

And, of course, the Anti-Mosque Coalition's Website Owned By Neo-Conservative Islamophobe Frank Gaffney.

Why not? No one is paying attention to the facts are they? Suzan _______________


Short Short Stories said...

Dean Baker is very clear about the fraud. The new Depression is upon many Americans suffering from the economic collapse. He is now even using the word Elite, which is new for him.

It is clear that he is feeling the frustration of an economy falling down the BP drill pipe.

This nation is controlled by an economic elite crime syndicate, which includes the largest corporations, and financial institutions, and military/intelligence industries.

The national politicians are their drones that fly around the Senate and Congressional office buildings making deals with the syndicate's lobbyists so the campaign contributions flow in.

It is not going to end anytime soon.

There is just not the will or the momentum to force change. BO would rather glossy over the truth.


Suzan said...

Yes, Jerry, you are so observant - although, let's face it - it doesn't take that much to notice someone with quality credentials calling out the "elite" nefarious forces (for the first time!).

Wonder if Krugman and Stiglitz will follow suit.

Naaaahhhh. Doubt it.

But they certainly allude to it more and more, don't they?

After all, history will record the truth tellers and the prevaricators, and they wouldn't want to be adjudged on the wrong team.


Love ya,


He is now even using the word Elite, which is new for him.

Nance said...

I prefer to have the elite term reserved for intellectuals; don't fritter that one away on financial piranhas...thievery is what I grew up calling "common."

Good choice in the Baker post.

Mr. Natural said...

"...surely he was just a bad management consultant...discovered just 36 percent of them were happy with the outcome - while two thirds judged them to be useless or harmful..." Trained by the same sort of motherfucking liars and thieves that spent an hour training pizza delivery boys to go out and sell un-needed mortgages to any fool who would fall for the smooooth sleaze. AMERICA-BAH!

Suzan said...

Me too, Nance. And yet, it's not really our choice anymore is it? They have established themselves as the real political/economic elite and completely trivialized the intellectual/moral elite that used to possess some gravity with the masses.

Thanks for commenting! Love your blog.

I prefer to have the elite term reserved for intellectuals; don't fritter that one away on financial piranhas

Righto, Mr. Naturally Bright, exactemente.

Carry on!

Trained by the same sort of motherfucking liars and thieves that spent an hour training pizza delivery boys to go out and sell un-needed mortgages to any fool who would fall for the smooooth sleaze. AMERICA-BAH!