Monday, February 28, 2011

SAR #11059

Politicians are always willing to ask others to suffer.

Lumps: Those governments and investment banks and international corporation who did business with, loaned money to and otherwise commercially and politically encouraged and enabled dictators such as Gaddafi and Mubarak should suffer the same fate as a shareholder who invests in a company that goes bankrupt. They should lose what they invested and be left holding nothing - no properties, no claims, nothing. Why should the citizens of Libya and Egypt (and lots of others) pay for the debts of dictators and their satraps, or fulfill contracts they did not sign and did not profit from. There should be a real and painful cost to raping a country.

Help Wanted: As 125,000 marched to support public employees in Madison over the weekend, the governor called for help from police agencies across the state. Turns out they were not needed, as the protests were quietly well behaved – maybe that's why the media ignored such an outpouring of support for the unions. Might have got more attention if Obama had been there, leading the march to defend the working stiffs. But that'd be leadership, and our politicians don't do leadership.

Danger Zone: As you knew they would, the bankers – this time in the guise of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – are trying to get 'Egypt' to accept a billion Euros a year in reconstruction money in return for “free-market reform”. This comes while London bankers are trying to extract their pound of flesh for previous loans made to Mubarak. Why doesn't a revolution act like bankruptcy and wipe out all previous debts, especially those made to dictators, over which the people had no say? Is today's 'Egypt' the same as Mubarak's 'Egypt”? Who did the borrowing? Who should be made to pay? Ah. The usual suspects.

Union Busting: Lost in Gov. Walker's hysteria over the claimed 'budget shortfall' and the union's responsibility therefore is that during his first 10 days as Governor he gave out $117 million in tax breaks to businesses, which is 85% of the $137 projected shortfall. You can blame the unions only if the GOP is considered a union of big business interests. Yeah, let's bust that union.

Woodshed: America's biggest banks say they've been bad and expect to be sent to bed without a second helping of desert. They face a multi-billion dollar penalty for illegally foreclosing on borrowers. Separately, Citigroup is facing a $4 billion hickey for fraudulent disclosures (and non-disclosures) about its toxic mortgage assets. And on it goes.

Box Score: The economy has added a million jobs in the past year, almost all of them low paying service-sector jobs. During the Current Unpleasantness 40% of the jobs lost were high-paying, but so far only 14% of the new jobs are; and while only 23% of the jobs lost were low-paying, 49% of those added were.

Tough It Out: The Obama administration early on sent an envoy to Spain to warn them of the consequences if they indicted George W. Bush and his advisers for crimes against humanity, specifically authorizing and encouraging torture. The Americans were aghast to learn that, unlike in the US, the Spanish executive branch could not tell the Spanish courts what they may or may not do. The case is still open and pending.

Financial Infidelity: 31% of Americans lie to their partners about money, 80% spend money on stuff their partners don't know about. Big surprise – go out an look in the trunk of my wife's car, count the shoe boxes. Me, I'm gonna sneak another shot of the Laphroaig .

It's Nearly Quitting Time: Economists admit they were wrong; austerity is not going to save the Greeks, nor their creditors. Their current solution is for Greece to give up the euro, go back to the drachma and suffer in squalor and silence, while their bondholders write off 30% or more and just go away.

AIG The Sequel: AIG, the folks at ground zero for the last meltdown, say they have made a few more bad bets and now face losses on $46 billion in municipal bonds that “threaten the company's liquidity.” Which is AIG speak for “we're going to need some more taxpayer money.”

Damned Math! Wisconsin Governor Walker wants unionized state workers to “contribute more” to their pension and health plans – but they already pay 100% of every dollar that funds their pension and health insurance. In negotiating their contracts the public employees forewent pay raises in lieu of putting the money into insurance and retirement. It's called deferred compensation – just like the CEOs on Wall Street get. And it is the result of collective bargaining. The last time I checked, there were employees only on one side of the negotiating table.

It's the Unions! Surveys show that the long term unemployed have no health insurance, nor any money with which to buy it. Now the former middle class is joining the rest of the poor in the nation's emergency rooms and free clinics, cursing the teachers unions for ruining the economy.

Porn O'Graph: Oh, crap. Well, phosphate actually.


jfwells said...

Mmmmmmmm, Laphroaig...

OkieLawyer said...

Re: Danger Zone

I tried to post this on Saturday, but now seems as good a time as any.

A revolution against neoliberalism?

The last time I encountered the word "technocrat" was in Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine — a searing indictment of neoliberalism which argues that the free-market fundamentalism promoted by economist Milton Friedman (and immensely influential in the United States) is predicated on restructuring economies in the wake of catastrophic disruptions because normally functioning societies and political systems would never vote for it. Disruptions can be natural or man-made, such as … revolutions.


The last great wave of revolutions occurred in 1989. The governments that were collapsing then were communist, and the replacement in that "shock moment" of one extreme economic system with its opposite seemed predictable and to many even natural.

One of the things that make the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions potentially important on a global scale is that they took place in states that were already neoliberalised. The complete failure of neoliberalsm to deliver "human well-being" to a large majority of Egyptians was one of the prime causes of the revolution, at least in the sense of helping to prime millions of people who were not connected to social media to enter the streets on the side of the pro-democracy activists.


If the January 25th revolution results in no more than a retrenchment of neoliberalism, or even its intensification, those millions will have been cheated. The rest of the world could be cheated as well. Egypt and Tunisia are the first nations to carry out successful revolutions against neoliberal regimes. Americans could learn from Egypt. Indeed, there are signs that they already are doing so. Wisconsin teachers protesting against their governor’s attempts to remove the right to collective bargaining have carried signs equating Mubarak with their governor. Egyptians might well say to America 'uqbalak (may you be the next).

kwark said...

Re: Damned Math! CKM, you should know better. For the average worker deferred compensation is inherently socialist (and thus evil). Only if you run a corporation does deferred compensation transmogrify into a benefit that accrues to the worthy.


Re: Dispassionate Analysis I don't know about folks in the rest of the country who pay much less per gallon but in my neck of California I'm not driving unless absolutely necessary. We're already paying about $3.75/gallon at the cheapo stations - assuming I still have a job this summer (and thus a choice) I'm thinking this may be another year with a "staycation".