Friday, April 8, 2011

What Is It With A Country That Gives Bonuses For Failure? Didn't We Used To Mock Those Autocracies? "Girl Who" Tells All & Why Not Shut Them Down?

[Thanks for reading and if you can make a donation to this blog, I'll come over to your house and give you a kiss. And if you'd rather have a handshake - even better.]

Regarding one of the most important issues of our time - where did all our money go (and I'm talking about the international institutions that received it along with the U.S. banksters)? Because if we never find out where the banks are that got it, how will we ever get even (if we ever have the chance)? From Bloomberg's lawsuit we learn that:

3.3 trillion dollars (more than the budget of the Federal government) was given by the Fed at the height of the financial crisis as a loan to the banks not by printing money - but merely by telling them to add zeros on to their accounts from the Fed. Created out of thin air: leading to the rising prices on everything - energy, gas, food. And the banksters of course have just had the "most profitable quarter of the millenium."
Wonder if there are any sleuths pursuing these truths who are not already owned by the implicated parties? And on a more looming front . . . if you're assuming that Congress will not be paid if the government shuts down over the weekend, rest assured that they passed laws some time covering themselves (no matter how hard some legislators work to ensure that they are affected by their carelessness with the lives of others). It's just all the much poorer federal employees who will not be paid. Talk about pulling a boner (Boehner)! From one of the best reporters on the international situation we learn that (emphasis marks inserted - Ed.):

If we careen over a cliff on Friday and the American government shuts down, hard-working federal workers will stop getting paychecks, but the members of Congress responsible for the shutdown are expected to be paid as usual. That’s partly because Congressional pay is not subject to the regular appropriations process, and partly because of Constitutional concerns.

The Senate passed a bill proposed by Barbara Boxer of California that would suspend Congressional paychecks in any government shutdown, but the Republican-controlled House has blocked it. House Republicans approved a similar pay suspension, but it was embedded in legislation that has zero chance of becoming law.

The upshot is that federal workers who do important work for the public — cleaning up toxic waste, enrolling sick people into lifesaving medical trials, answering medical hot lines, running national parks, processing passport applications — risk being sent home and going unpaid. But members of Congress would continue to receive $174,000 a year. As the humorist Andy Borowitz wrote in a Twitter message: “That’s like eliminating the fire dept & sending checks to the arsonists.”

In my travels lately, I’ve been trying to explain to Libyans, Egyptians, Bahrainis, Chinese and others the benefits of a democratic system. But if Congressional Republicans actually shut down the government this weekend, they will be making a powerful argument for autocracy. Chinese television will be all over the story.

If a high school student council refused to approve a budget so that student activities had to be canceled — even as student leaders continued to pay themselves stipends — a school board would probably cancel the entire experiment in student democracy. But I can’t imagine high school students acting so immature.

Some Republicans seem motivated to accept a government shutdown not only by a terror of the Tea Party wing of their party but also by a profound misunderstanding of fiscal policy.

“Our generation’s greatest challenge,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican, declared in an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal the other day, “is an economy that isn’t growing, alongside a national debt that is.”

A fair number of Republicans share that sentiment, so let’s take a closer look. To nitpick, it’s factually wrong. The economy has been growing since the third quarter of 2009. The larger point is true. The economy is still sputtering, unemployment is too high and debt is growing.

But one of the most basic principles of economics is that when an economy is anemic, governments should use deficit spending as a fiscal stimulus, even though that means an increase in debt. If Senator Rubio believes that the response to a weak economy is to slash spending, he is embracing the approach that Herbert Hoover discredited 80 years ago.

Republicans are correct that debt matters and that we need to address America’s long-term deficits. That means trimming entitlement programs and reducing the rise in health care spending that is eroding their viability; we also probably need some tax increases. But while our long-term need is to rein in deficit spending, our short-term need is to boost it. That’s why sensible budget plans involve a short-term stimulus combined with long-term trims that take effect when the economy is healthy again.

The Republican plan to address debt right now, in an economic trough, echoes the horrendous mistake Japan made in the mid-1990s just as it was emerging from its own deep recession. Japan collapsed right back into what became its “lost decade” and now realizes that it should have nurtured a recovery before addressing its debt problem.

I was living in Japan then and referred to the prime minister on the front page of The New York Times as “Herbert Hoover” Hashimoto. So it only seems fair to refer now, if the shutdown occurs, to the current speaker of the House as “Herbert Hoover” Boehner.

Imagine how disastrous it would be if the Republicans shut down government for any length of time. Unpaid federal employees would cut back on shopping. Some would miss house payments. Family members might drop out of college. The I.R.S. might not be able to deliver some tax refunds. Small businesses would stop getting government loans. In sum, after the Democratic stimulus, we would have the Republican drag.

Republicans are also threatening to refuse to raise the government debt ceiling. By July, that could mean a default on U.S. government bonds. The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, says that would be “catastrophic,” and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warns that we could see “a financial crisis potentially more severe than the crisis from which we are only now starting to recover.”

All this seems mind-bogglingly petty and pusillanimous. If members of Congress shut down government and trigger a new financial crisis, then they shouldn’t just have their own pay docked. They should also learn the discipline of a market economy and be fired by the public that they are betraying.
Did it ever occur to you that our current dire political situation has already been fictionized for the most part for the reading pleasure of millions? In Sweden? Have you read any of the "Girl" books? Cause stealing from the ignorant and/or nonobservant is not news overseas. And they know how to deal with thugs - witness the new banking regulations in Germany, et al. Here are a few of my favorite portions from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:

Blomkvist had been poring over Salander's computer printouts for three days - boxes full of papers. The problem was that the subjects kept changing all the time. An option deal in London. A currency deal in Paris through an agent. A company with a post-office box in Gibraltar. A sudden doubling of funds in an account at the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. And then all those puzzling question marks: a trading company with 200,000 kronor in an untouched account registered five years earlier in Santiago, Chile - one of nearly 30 such companies in 12 different companies - and not a hint of what type of activity was involved. A dormant company? Waiting for what?

A front for some other kind of activity? The computer gave no clue as to what was going on in Wennerstrom's mind or what may have been perfectly obvious to him and so was never formulated in an electronic document.

Salander was persuaded that most of these questions would never be answered. They could see the message, but without a key they would never be able to interpret the meaning. Wennerstrom's empire was like an onion from which one layer after another could be removed; a labyrinth of enterprises owned by one another. Companies, accounts, funds, securities. They reckoned that nobody - perhaps not even Wennerstrom himself - could have a complete overview. Wennerstrom's empire had a life of its own.

But there was a pattern, or at least a hint of a pattern. A labyrinth of enterprises owned by each other. Wennerstrom's empire was variously valued at between 100 and 400 billion kronor, depending on whom you asked and how it was calculated. But if companies own each other's assets - what then would be their value?

Seems pretty plain doesn't it? How else does BP get to drill again in the Gulf so soon (with all that oil stuck on the bottom doing who knows what kind of long-term unrecompensed damage)? How else does Wells Fargo (now owner of Wachovia) get to continue the business that was intimately bound up with smuggling drugs between the U.S. and Mexico? And how else does everyone in the U.S. (and in most of the western, developed nations) live with being informed that from now on they will be working for serf wages (and be glad about it)? Forever.

Want to have a good laugh about it? Why not? After all, most people think if they can't do anything about it (voting and making sure that the votes are counted by someone other than Diebold are too hard) they could at least look at it as very droll humor. At their expense. And only the Tea Party People really get mad, but always at the wrong people.

Wonkette is at the ready with the ironies that now rule our daily lives (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

  • Let’s begin with the “funny” news: Transocean awarded its top executives with six figure bonuses, because under their shining leadership the company experienced its “best year in safety performance.” Yes, “safety bonuses” for the executives in charge of the oil rig that exploded and then spilled 200 million gallons of oil into the ocean, killing eleven people, all the baby dolphins and everything else that lives in/near the Gulf. Ha-ha, it’s good to be an executive, and receive bonus-bribes and hookers so that you will never be tempted to cooperate with the authorities — which is very unlikely to begin with, since you have no soul. Anyway! BP has tentative plans to resume drilling in the Gulf. [MSNBC]
  • It could take “several months” before Fukushima stops leaking radioactive sludge. Also: Japan dumped 11,500 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Hooray! [CNN/Business Week]
  • Oh look, microphallus Terry Jones is still burning Muslin books. [Miami Herald]
There are two comments that are really fine here:
It's like the best of General "No Taxes" Electric and Morgan "Blood Funnel" Stanley combined, but with moar dead pelicans!

Man, a certain company is certainly trying hard to make sure their executives are the first to be roasted and force-fed to their children when the Revolution comes.
And because all of the foregoing news (about how the tax cuts, wars and health-care handouts to Big Pharma are the real deficit causes) is only a joke . . . from the obviously Koch-obedient Associated Press (AP) we learn that hysteria is loosed, infecting the population and running amuck:

Deal needed to avoid spending train wreck

And what kind of deal are these thugs willing to make not to close down the government and incur much larger deficits by so doing? One that wrecks the country, of course. Climb onboard! The train is leaving the station!!! And you'll just love what the Ryan Budget (Rethuglican Plan for Your Quicker Demise!) has in store for you now:

Ryan Budget Fast-Tracks Social Security Cuts

There's been so much noise about what Paul Ryan's budget plan does to Medicare and Medicaid that the damage it does to Social Security has gone unnoticed. It is true that Ryan sidesteps proposing specific cuts in Social Security benefits. (For some insight into where Ryan's heart lies, however, we have his privatization scheme in his 2010 Roadmap for America's Future, aka the Highway to Hell.)

But Ryan's budget strikes two major blows to Social Security:

It creates an unprecedented new fast-track procedure to ram through Social Security benefit cuts. Under Ryan's plan, any year Social Security is not in 75-year balance, the President and Congress would have to legislate changes that bring it to solvency through an "expedited process."

- In effect, Ryan would free up Social Security for fast-track cuts by turning it into a regular line budget item. Since Social Security is not part of the general budget, has its own revenue stream, and is forbidden by law from borrowing, it has always been dealt with separately from the rest of the budget. In fact, Ryan had to create a new fast-track process to trigger cuts for Social Security alone, because by law, it is excluded from fast-track reconciliation procedures for the general budget.

- Further, projections of Social Security's solvency change every year, which means that Ryan's plan could force big changes to Social Security based on very short-term variations in the program's finances.

• It endorses major middle class benefit cuts. Just what kinds of changes would Ryan push through under the new "expedited process" he is proposing? Well, short of explicitly embracing their recommendations, Ryan makes clear that the draconian plan put forward by Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson is his model for reform.

Click here, and here, or see below, for a refresher on the Bowles-Simpson proposal.

The Bowles-Simpson proposal was two-thirds benefit cuts, and one-third revenue increases. Only, Ryan thinks the "merits" of their paltry revenue increases are "debatable." He'll take the gargantuan benefit cuts and leave the additional revenue, thank you very much.

Read on, little dogies. Still think that cute, widdle, funny-dressed Tea Party was a good idea (for the Kochs)?

Once upon a time, there was a Left in this world. And they tried to elucidate who the players were and what they were doing to the rest of us. They took care of that pronto! (Chomsky is ignored or treated as a non-existing intellectual and Hitch is dying but before that he was completely suborned by Wolfowitz and Feith and became a pimp for the Iraq War.)

Chris Hitchens in better days:


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