Friday, February 27, 2009
Many large banks have taken government loans to help out in these tough times. Most consider a loan to be debt. If we went into a bank for a loan they would ask about our credit card debt(loans from credit cards), and any mortgage debt(loans). No way the bank would view 10,000 dollars owed on our best buy card, the same as having 10,000 dollars in the bank.
So why is this the case for banks who took bailout money.
The loans the banks took are not being called debt on the banks quartely reports. They are allowed to be called equity, which sounds a lot like profits.
Most average people buying stocks would not notice this but it is a highly shady tactic. If we cant do it why can they.
Than there is the issue of mark to market. The idea that right now when companies have investments listed on their balance sheet they are allowed to list what the possible future value is of that investment. But many are pushing for mark to market rules where current values would be listed instead of future possibilities.
Makes sense to me. We can use my earlier analogy, if you go to the bank for a loan and they want collateral, you cannot give them something worth a little now that you expect to be worth a million dollars in ten years. They would laugh at you. Yet companies are allowed to play by these rules. Seems unfair and pretty damn sneeky.
The good news is that in one quarterly report a year companies have to list how they value their investments along with the current fair market value. This is one of Jonathan Wiels trade secrets. He goes through a companies quarterly reports to find these numbers.
For example a few companies he currently talks about value their investments much higher than the current fair value. One company claims its investment will one day be worth 94 billion while current fair value is valued at 79 billion. A 15 billion dollar difference.
Jonathan than goes into current stock value of the company being 2.6 billion while the total value of the companies assets is 13.5 billion. So taking the stock value and asset value minus the 15 billion in accounting fudging to bring investment back to current fair value and this company is basically bankrupt.
Thanks accounting rule that lets companies value investments at future value and not current one's.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
1.The is a partisian bill rammed through the legislation process.
President Obama held numerous meetings and dinners to talk with republican leaders in the congress. Some Democrats were upset because they could not get a sit down with the president while the opposition did.
And the bill could not have passed the Senate vote with winning over 3 centrist republicans. They voted for the bill because the Democrats gave in to some of their demands, less spending, more tax cuts.
2.Tax cuts are the answer because companies can use the extra money to hire more workers.
This is one theory. Yet bush gave out large tax cuts for 8 years and if we remove data from last years economic crisis, not that many jobs were created, and or economy went bust. Author Larry Beinhart writes at huffington post that tax cuts, especailly focused toward the rich, as the bush tax cuts were, tends to put too much money into the economy. All this money is looking for investment and after a slight increase to the overall economy a bubble insues followed by a crash. Larry sites four examples of this patter.
You also have to take into account that over the past couple of decades the corporate companies have not been sharing their wealth. Executive salaries continue to rise as output rises, yet middle class pay has decreased since 1991. US corporate taxes are already some of the lowest in the world.
American corporations have moved a large part of there operations overseas to cut costs. Many tax breaks handed out for reinvestment have been spent outside of this country. One point to really hammer this home is that in the recent stimilus bill there was a fight to keep an ammendment forcing companies who recieved stimulus money to buy american products, like steel etc. Corporate america faught this hard and lost. But they would have not faught so hard if they did not have such large overseas operations.
Tax cuts do create more money for companies, but will they invest and hire more workers today? Many dont think so. The reason why companies are laying off workers has less to do with companies not having money to spend and more to do with no money coming in. People are not buying. No matter how many tax breaks you give a company and no matter how many workers they hire, people in this country are not buying. Wouldnt it be better to get money into the buyers hands, and once they buy more, the company has not choice but to hire more workers to keep up with the demand.
Ronald Reagon made popular the phrase trickel down economy. Meaning, give money and tax breaks to those atop the economic food chain and it will trickle down. This theory has proven to not work as can be seen by the fact that executive salaries have increased over 100x since reagon, while middle class salaries have either stagnated or decreased. And as i mentioned above his policies lead to a huge recession and more bank closures than during the great depression. There is no trickle down. The top keeps it all. There is no incentive for them not too. The wealth and levels of land ownership in this country have become more and more concentrated through right wing philosophy.
3. FDR's spending caused the great depression.
This is the best of them all. I have been reading David Sirota lately who has talked a lot about this issue, in the defense of FDR. David found that public spending created by FDR's new deal lead to the largest decrease in unemployment in the history of the country, from 1930 to 1940.
He also points out a clever trick the right wing has by pointing out 1937 as a year unemployment grew. But dont worry David responds that in 1937 conservative pressure grew for FDR to stop spending and start balancing the budget. He gave in to the conservatives and his successfull drop in unemployed began to turn around and get worse, until he went back to his spending policy.
There is also a chart floating around the internet that was created by John Mccain's economic adviser where he shows through data that for every doller spent on public spending and tax cuts, to jump start the economy, that public spending has a larger bang for the buck.
President Obama has chosen to spend, through public works projects, to create jobs, and get money into the hands of those that will buy. The more buying the more hiring.
4.The government is too big, this stimulus package just makes them bigger.
No it doesnt. This stimulus package gives money to states who are going to have to cut very important programs this year because they dont have enough revenue. The plan gives money to unemployment programs, medicare programs, public infastructure spending, increased money for education.
When people point out the government is too big they always point to program like medicare and social security, but these happen to be paid for by taxes every citizen pays. What they dont mention is how successful these two programs have been. They dont mention how successful other government involvement has been like the fdic insurance, like way they maintain roads and bridges, like the public education system.
They also dont complain about the bloated military budget. When it comes to the military, these same people that want a smaller government, love to expand the military. They have no problem bailing out the banking and finance industry. After 9/11 they did not say one word about the government expansion in security, new department (homeland security), illegally wiretapping our phones.
There philosophy is selective, and thus full of shit.
Whats the difference between right wing talking points in one hand, and a pile of shit in the other hand, at least the hand with the pile of shit is warm.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Why does this matter? Our national economy runs on credit, if banks are in debt because of bad loans and bad wall street bets, they will not lend.
The first bailout under bush tried to address this buy throwing 350 billion dollars in cash the banks way, while the fed made loans and guarantees on up to 8 trilion. The result was the bank hoarded the money and did not lend and the economy lost over 1.5 million jobs in nov-jan..
Obama and treasury sec. Geitner are planning on giving out the other 350 dollars approved by congress before the elections with hopes of giving the banks enough money that they not only begin lending again but also are able to raise private capitol. So far the Gietnar plan is to give money to those companies or individuals who will buy up the toxic assets hurting the banks balance sheets.
I have a couple of ideas.
One many have been floating is to follow the model that Sweden used when their banks were in trouble. The government took over the bank, fired the management, hired bright minds, fixed up the bank and sold it off to private individuals. The reason why we wont try this probably is because in the process those owning stock will lose all their investment. And we know how this nation feels about its investor class.
Another idea I probably read about, is based on the question what is the actually problem? It seems that our banking system is not sound enough to support our economy that relies on credit. Well so far according to many; we seem to be on the hook for close to 9 trillion dollars that have gone into fixing the broken banks. Why not use that money to establish a new bank. One healthy enough to jump start the credit market that is the engine of our economy. This way we don’t have to worry so much about the too big to fail theory. While our government bank gets the economy going, JP Morgan Chase and company can figure out what to do. We dont need em.
Many say but heh, the government is bad at running things? But there are many bright minds who can be brought in. Right now we have a private banker running the Treasury Department. Under Bush we had a private banker running the Treasury Department.
Now what to do with the Mega banks. One problem I see in this whole mess is the size of our banks being too big to fail. Me and you are not too big to fail. Average Americans go bankrupt all the time and no one steps in to save them. To me the answer is obvious. If your too big to fail, than your too big.
This has been a problem not only of banks but of corporate America. Some corporations are so big that they wield too much power. Whether it be in the halls of Congress when it comes to passing laws. Whether it be with a group of workers fired for trying to unionize. Whether it be a giant health insurance company who has platoons of secretaries and doctors and lawyers on their payroll who constantly deny claims, and fight them.
Why is it that these big powerful interests always win, and the small American citizen seems to lose? Well I think there are two components. The first is that we Americans have not found a way to unify our voice. There are more of us than them. No lobbyist would have a chance if the American public, 300+ million strong, formed its own lobby.
In France they can stop traffic, shut down work across the country, stop colleges, when they choose to protest. Literally, the whole country grinds to a halt. Are we ready for this type of unifying force in America?
So the first part is we need to become stronger. But the second part is we need to weaken corporate power, I think. ( I think because in one sense i see it as a challenge. If the American public is not strong enough to stand up and defeat these powers than we deserve what we get. The bigger the challenge the stronger we become).
If you are too big to fail than you are too damn big, period. Banks like JP Morgan Chase will get split up into 100 banks. Same for the rest. So in the future if shit hits the fan, we can cut off the dead wood, let them go under without having to worry about the ripple effect throughout the economy.
Same goes for corporate America. Wall mart, Best Buy, McDonalds, its all over. It seems obvious, these large firms have too much market share and it is not good for our nation as a whole.
Lets remember the problem is not the housing market, the fall in the stock exchange, the huge unemployment figures that are piling up, or the fact that banks are broke. These are all the results of the problem. And while we need to fix the symptoms, if we do not fix the disease our symptoms will be back soon enough.
The disease is corruption, no oversight, no supervision, no accountability.
Mr. Madoff’s fraud case was brought to the attention of the government oversight committee, the SEC, yet they did nothing. Loans were given out with no money down no collateral and no jobs needed, no one cared because fees were so big. Insurance was sold on stocks and no money was held in case the insurance was claimed. Government oversight agencies were stocked with people who did not believe in oversight. Stock ratings agencies gave crap stock a perfect rating because they were paid off. The accounting industry which no one has mentioned yet, kept books on these banks that are full of fraud, why didnt they catch this?
If you got caught doing any of this at your high school burger joint job, you would be fired. If you got caught doing any of this at your current job, you would be fired. When you went for a new job they would ask you what happened. If they found out, your probably wouldnt be hired again.
When those who were charged with oversight allowed such devastation to occur are not fired and jailed and publicly tarred and feathered, than the unofficial word goes out, do whatever you can get away with because even if you are caught you will not be punished.
To this day it boggles my mind how those charged with oversight are not only not fired, but they are not in jail. No bank executive are in jail, no mortgage executives are in jail, no accounting executives are in jail, no governemnt oversight executives are in jail. Its almost as if this was just an accident. The word has gone out, those in the inner circle of elite power will never have to pay for any of their wrongs. Obama's economic team cannot claim anyone who saw this crash coming. Why is that? W
The same crew that crashed the country is the same crew saying only we can fix it. But I know different. The Blogoshpere knows different. This house that Rothchild built is a fake. It cannot survive. It is a cancer. When you have cancer that causes you to lets say lose nutrients, the answer is not more nutrients. Sure it helps, for now. But everyone know you need to cut that shit out. And guess what? If you go back to your same lifestyle that cancer is a coming back. Because your body is set up, physically, mentally and spiritually to support cancer. You need to change your diet, exercise more, and meditate more, create a different internal environment that is hostile to cancer.
That’s just what we need as a nation. New leaders, New role models, new powers, new ideas.(read this next part with Dr. Martin Luther Kings Jr's voice in your head).
I have a dream. That one day we can build a nation, a world with a new environment that is hostile to corruption, to lack of oversight, supervision, and accountability.
If you want some real information on whats going on, look of cjr the audit, or david sirota, or npr planet money, or bill moyers, or roubini, each one of this these guys should bring you dozens of other references.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Here are some pictures from the closing ceremony of the chinese new year, year of the ox. I spent all day on sunday in chinatown NYC for this parade. Walking for 7 hours was hard enough i cant even imagine how hard it was for the lion dancers. Each club has its own parade that marches up and down chinatown with a few lions, a drum, a gong, and some cymbols. The lions stop at close to a hundred store fronts to bless the store for the upcoming year. I would also like to point out how hard it is to manage this. You have flags leading the parade who sometimes walk to far ahead, you have drums at the end of the parade, you have three lions to coordinate to make sure they bless every store front, you have to make sure people with poles hold back the crowd, you have to make sure your lion dance teams are rotating into the lion and not leaving guys in too long.
At the end of the day the club performes a martial arts demo.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Just read this article that hit me in the gut. After reading it I am sad to be a human being, and to be an America. No matter who we are at war with, no matter how tough the battle we cannot lose our soul. A great quote i once read said if our country is not strong enough to win a war without resorting to breaking the law, than our country is not worth saving. Now read the story below, about what we do to people suspected of terror activities, and keep in mind this man was never told his charges, and is probably innocent. For gods sake try these people in a court of law or let them free. We treated the Nazi's at Nuremberg better. If you can read this and still be proud to be an American, or a human being there is something wrong with you.
Binyam Mohamed was born in Ethiopia and came to Britain in 1994, where he lived for seven years, sought political asylum and was given leave to remain while his case was resolved.
While travelling in Pakistan, Binyam was arrested on a visa violation and turned over to the US authorities. When they refused to let him go, he asked what crime he had committed, and insisted on having a lawyer if he was going to be interrogated. The FBI told him, ‘The rules have changed. You don’t get a lawyer.’
Binyam refused to speak to them. British agents then confirmed his identity to the US authorities and he was warned that he would be taken to a Middle Eastern country for harsh treatment.
On 21 July 2002, Binyam was rendered to Morocco on a CIA plane. He was held there for 18 months in appalling conditions. To ensure his confession, his Moroccan captors tortured him, stripping him naked and cutting him with a scalpel on his chest and penis. Despite this, Binyam said that his lowest point came when his interrogators asked him questions about his life in London, which he realized could only have been provided by the British intelligence services, and he realized that he had been betrayed by the country in which he had sought asylum.
Binyam’s ordeal in Morocco continued for about 18 months until January 2004, when he was transferred to the ‘Dark Prison’ near Kabul, Afghanistan, a secret prison run by the CIA, which resembled a medieval dungeon with the addition of extremely loud 24-hour music and noise.
Speaking of his time in the ‘Dark Prison’, Binyam said:
“It was pitch black, no lights on in the rooms for most of the time. They hung me up for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb. There was loud music, Slim Shady [by Eminem] and Dr. Dre for 20 days. Then they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds. At one point, I was chained to the rails for a fortnight. The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.”
From there he was taken to the US military prison at Bagram airbase, and finally, in September 2004, to Guantánamo Bay, where he remains.
oh and why did i mention that our new President supports torture? Because so far while promising to close Guantanamo he has promised to continue to use the illegal practice of rendition. If you forgot rendition is when our CIA will fly you to a country where you are pretty much guaranteed to be tortured.
President Obama has also instructed his justice department to defend lawsuits by Jose Padilla, who is suing individuals such as, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the infamous John Yoo because he is an american citizen that was arrested and thrown into Gauntanamo bay without a lawyer, and without being told of his right, and without a fair and speedy trial which is against the constitution of the United States of America.
Obama has also sided with the bush administration in a lawsuit over the illegal electronic eavesdropping program.
Now i think i should have voted for MCcain, at least he told us what he planned to do, Obama lied!
Now that Leon Pinetta has become the director of the CIA and he has put together his team, it seems clear, according to Chris Floyd, who quotes an article from Harpers magazine, that Pinetta has chosen as his number two and three man at the CIA, two men who were heavily involved as top directors in the cia for the detention programs under Bush. Programs which the International Committee of the REd Cross have called torture, in a new report.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Even with this advantage president still chose to have numerous meetings in the oval office with republican leadership to build a bipartisanship bill. In the eyes of many Democrats this compromise was not needed. In fact many progressives thought it should not have happened. The progressives are arguing that the American public has voted for a Democratic stimulus by the way they elected a Democratic Senate, Congress, and President. Not only that but the fact that this election has never been more clear cut. A vote for Mccain meant the country wanted a Reagon style economy. Tax cuts to the wealthy, the corporate, the street on wall. While a vote for Obama meant tax cuts for the poor and middle class. Many republicans framed the election so strongly by calling Obama's policies a socialistic redistribution of wealth. And guess what GOP, Americans chose socialistic wealth redistribution.
But in a spirit of bipartisanship, or some might call it Democratic spinelessness, President Obama still chose to work with his opposition. Yet when the bill came up for a vote in the House of Representatives not one Republican voted for the bill. To me and many progressives this was seen as a stab in the back to President Obama. Yet Greg Palast just wrote an article that was hard to see where he was coming from because of the high level of sarcasm. But I think his point was about President Obama stabbing the republicans in the back by inviting them to the white house to build a bill together, than when they left he created a democratic bill that they would not support. So I guess it depends on what side of the aisle you are on.
So whats in the bill. The Democratic version of the bill is around 800 billion dollars being spent on medicare, unemployment, a huge increase in education, money going to states to help balance their budget deficits, and money going to rebuild the national infrastructure, with some tax cuts for the middle class.
The Democrats are framing their plan as a way to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The president promises the bill will create 3-4 million jobs. Economist Dean Baker believes government spending will create jobs even though the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee Steele argued last week that never in all of history has the government created on job. (Than he rephrased saying all the public school teachers, all the public hospital workers, all the people working in the department of defense and every other government office dont count as government workers). Anyway Baker argues
The Republicans are framing the democratic plan as a giveaway to reward all the interests that backed the Democratic election win of 2008. Yet the plan offered by the republicans is nothing more than a carbon copy of Bush's failed policies. More tax cuts for the rich, and to cut taxes completely on capitol gains. We just had 8 years of Republican tax cuts how has that worked out in stimulating the economy?
It seems like thats the only economic theories they have. Times are good, lets cut taxes. Times are bad, i know, lets cut taxes. I also find it quite funny to see Republican Senator Lindsey Graham complain that republicans have been shut out of the process when A) thats what he did when bush ran things and B) Obama met more with republcans than democrats on this piece of legislation.
Others are saying that right now, what we need to completely revamp the system. That our fundamentals are broken. We buy more from the world than we sell. Our Federal government and our citizens survive on credit. Our banking system is highly leveraged. Our government does not print its own money it borrows it from the private federal reserve bank and pays interest. And the bottom line is we just dont make anything here anymore.
An easy way to make major changes is to attach strings to the 800 billion dollars in cash to be handed out. Fundamental changes to our country like labour laws. To stop rewarding factories that move overseas with tax brakes. To create more transparency and regulation on wall street. To deal with mortgages that people cannot pay.
How about attaching a string like, if you take stimulus package money from the governement to use to build a new road you must buy your concrete from an envirnmentally friendly company. You must not use workers who have come to this country through illegal means.
Another area in our national budget where money can be found is the defense department. Lets cut defense spending. Yes i said it. We don't really need to spend more on our defense than the whole world combined. There are officially 192 countries in the world, do we need to have 4x this amount of military bases? Do we need to allow the defense department to get away with 300 billion dollars in cost overuns every year? I heard someone argue, wont military spending cuts mean job loss? But we had an increase in military spending since 2001 that has barely been felt by our economy.
Another aspect involed in the debate has to do with the Buy America amendment. The amendment forces, in cases where its an option, companies receiving money via the economic stimulus bill to spend the money on american companies. For example if the stimulus bill gives money to a town to build a bridge the material must be american, when available. The goal is to have the stimulus money remain in the country. Lets face it, we are not try to stimulate china, if you know what i mean.
But for some odd reason their has been resistance to this amendment. On the surface one must wonder why. America needs jobs, so lets only spend the money in America, right? Well since the rise of globalization and free trade philosophy many American companies have moved their factories overseas. The reasons for this move is to save money. Labor costs less in Africa and China, and there are less regulations relating to pollution and Unions. So American firms who wish to cash in on the stimulus would be stopped by this amendment, and we all know how much pressure Corporations can apply to our elected leaders.
Even some European leaders have publicly warned the US to be careful in debating the passage of protectionist policy. Saying that the world follows the US's lead and if we begin protectionism so will the rest of the world until the global network of economic trade will grind to a halt.
David Sirota has a great point in his open left blog, where he thinks ideas of a trade war are just hypotheticals. He convincingly argues that the word protectionism has been redefined by those seeking to stop the Buy America amendment. David goes on to say that for the past 25 years protectionist practices meant tariffs, so by calling a law requiring companies to buy american protectionism, is to invoke an image in the voters mind that is not truthful. This is not a new strategy. Politicians are well versed in invoking images and ideas of the past to win support for legislation, where the ideas invoked really have nothing to do with the legistlation.
For example, a few years ago there was a push to end the estate tax, which was a tax on very wealthy estates that were handed down to children when wealthy parents passed on. The tax was created to stop the developement of dynasty's in this country that dominated Europe for centuries. So if you inherited over ten million dollars, or some very large some from your deceased parents you were taxed. Rich people didn't like this and tried to change it. But how do you convince the public to change a law that will hurt them, while helping the tiny few who are beyond wealthy. It came down to framing the debate. The word estate was changed to death, and the movement to revoke the death tax began. Now every middle class citizen felt effected by the death tax, even though it would not effect them. Very clever.
And to top it all off President Obama has come out against the Buy America bill that he campaigned on. He might have even won states based on this issue alone(according to David Sirota).
An idea floated by Sara Robinson from the ourfuture.org blog is to think big. She lists a few.
1.It would have been cheaper to buy the banks outright than continue to pump them full of money.
2. Reinstitute a stock transfer tax that would bring in a lot of revenue and also penalize sellers who buy large and sell fast, thus moving wall street back to its original intent, to fund companies while investors could earn a little, and not the high flying casino type atmoshphere of present. In fact the IRS just released a report on the top 400 wealthiest American tax returns, and 2/3 rds of their salaries came from the sale of capitol gains. And since the President and the public both believe executives are getting paid too much why not tax it?
3. Closing prisons would bring in a lot of money. Many researchers have noted that while crime is down 15 years straight to a 40 year low, we continue to build more prisons. Sara quotes a CAF Research Director:
The sacrifices we make to build these prisons are astonishing. Between 1987 and 2007, state spending on prisons increased by 40 percent (as a percent of the general fund). State spending on higher education decreased by 30 percent. We are financing our prisons by cutting our colleges.
4. And lastly, every one pays a social security tax, but it is only taxed on the first 90,000 dollars anyone makes. Sara beleives and i agree, that we should tax every day up to infinite. This would bring in huge sums of money
Paul Krugman, columnist for the new york times, also argues that 800 billion is not enough to jump start the economy. He shows that the congressional budget office sees a 2.9 trillion dollar whole in the economy over the next three years. Right now the plan of pumpin in 400 billion a year (the 800 billion dollar plan is over two years.) would be less than half the losses incured.
The Democratic senate needed a few Republicans to break ranks and vote for the stimulus for it to pass. They did get them but they had to cut some spending out of the bill and add some tax cuts. But it seems the most important parts were cut out. Like money going to states to help balance their budgets, money going to help with unemployment and healthcare for unemployed. Economist Robert Reich and Paul Krugman point out that what was cut out of the bill would have the strongest and most immediate impact on the economy. They argue that research shows that money going to unemployment and to states would have been spent immediately.
The daily beast website points out an interesting part of the internal bargaining that went on,
"Krugman lays the blame at the feet of President Obama, who talked a lot about post-partisanship while allowing conservatives to define the debate. “Mr. Obama was reduced to bargaining for the votes of those centrists. And the centrists, predictably, extracted a pound of flesh."
Another interesting note is that the US Chamber of Commerce has come out in support of the bill with Nelson ammendment.(the one that cut out a lot of state funding, healthcare for the unemployed, unemployment funding, education spending.) This is a telling sign because the US Chamber of Commerce, while it has a respectable name does the bidding of their corporate lobbiests. And the legistlation corporate American pushes for, usually does not benefit the rest of America.
Another note is that some are saying that the reason the Republicans are not voting for this stimulus is because they are postering for the 2010 congressional election. This way the bill either passes smaller than required or passes too late to have a real effect on the economy. So Republicans will have strong talking points for their 2010 congressional races by arguing "We told you the democrats could not fix things, vote for us".
To me this action, putting politics above our national interest is unamerican and just as wrong as you could get. I know the Democrats would do the same thing. We need some fundamental changes to our country.