Monday, January 23, 2012

Why America's Financial Future is Still at Stake

Glass-Steagall served as the basic financial "rules" of the American economic system from 1933 and is 36 pages long. By comparison, the "repair" after the 2008-2009 "financial collapse" (known as "Dodd-Frank") is around 850 pages. What's the difference? Oh, grasshopper, you must understand that it takes a LOT more pages to build in all the lucrative loopholes for your buddies!

In 1999 (see "The Long Demise of Glass-Steagall") after "12 attempts in 25 years, Congress finally repeals Glass-Steagall, rewarding financial companies for more than 20 years and $300 million worth of lobbying efforts. Supporters hail the change as the long-overdue demise of a Depression-era relic."

Simply put (remember "k-i-s-s"? keep it simply stupid principle?), Glass-Steagall clearly separated "banking" from "financial speculation" with a simple set of rules that effectively said "if you want federal deposit protection" (the F.D.I.C) then you must operate within a prescribed set of financial boundaries. Conversely, if you want to engage in speculative on financial instruments, then there are a different set of rules and you are "playing with your own money" (in other words, the "worth" of the corporation engaging in those riskier endeavors).

Whereas purely financial transactions had previously represented 6- to 10-percent of America's gross domestic product ("G.D.P") the demise of Glass-Steagall and the creation of all of the "financial instruments" (betting against each other with guarantees from the U.S. Government, essentially) rose to approximately 40% of the GDP by 2008. This should have been a clarion call that instead of factories and enterprises producing REAL things (cars, TVs, furniture, groceries) the financial contagion (and all of the attendant motivation to move real manufacturing off to cheaper off-shore producers) was truly upon us. I recall going through fairly "up-scale" clothiers in nice shopping malls in 2000 and 2001 and looking carefully at the "made in" labels on clothing and publicly lamenting "remember when the U.S. had actual clothing makers?" to surprised salespeople who typically reacted with "gee, I never really noticed those labels". Little did I know that the off-shore-ization" was in full swing.

I'm not a financial wizard, just a humble computer developer (turned composer) who tries to stay in touch with current events. My "wake up call" regarding understanding how the financial politics of America are rigged (yes, rigged!) came from a one-two punch in two interviews on the new "Moyers and Friends" PBS series (there's a direct link to program 2 here if you missed it). On it, in a relatively lengthy conversation with former Reagan Budget Director (and one-time financial whiz-kid) David Stockman followed by further examination with a long-time New York Times financial columnist (Gretchen Morgenstern), it is clear that nothing short of a Constitutional Amendment can separate the money interest from our REPRESENTATION in Washington. The revolving door of political figures and lobbyists guarantee that the 1% will continue to dominate the financial future and all the rest of us (the 99%) are just pawns in their continuing financial chess game.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Romney/Gingrich 2012!

As the circular firing squad that is the current Republican group of candidates moves further down the road, it is  becoming more and more clear that as much as it will take a "hold your nose" approach, the nomination of Willard "Mitt" Romney--however distasteful it might be for those folks who just don't trust members of the Church of Latter Day Saints--is probably the only viable candidate for the Presidency. Unless a "dark horse" emerges from the shadows, Romney seems to be legitimately beating Perry and the "Cain art project" (as Rachel Maddow puts it) and where are the "also-rans" who can be legitimately considered as serious candidates? Of the "five dwarves" (Santorum, Bachman, Hunstman, Paul and Gingrich) on stage at the 10th Republican "debate" from Wednesday, November 9th, only Gingrich has the credentials to not be considered a "nut job", even though he brings along the baggage of a "serial adulterer", famously moving from wife to wife with a new mistress (even, in the case of his first wife, while she was hospitalized).

Gingrich "balances the ticket" and could make voters from southern states hold their nose and vote for a "good, ole boy", perhaps hoping for a well-timed assassination that would elevate their nut-job to the Presidency before "that Mormon guy" has had much of a chance to "socialize" the country.

You read it here first! Stranger bedfellows have combined in Pres/VP partnerships before and unless someone who truly "balances the ticket" better, it sounds like a done deal to me. (Of course, there's always the chance that Romney goes the McCain route and selects a relatively unknown female candidate from obscurity ...--oh, wait! clearly that's INSANE!).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Relax! According to Lichtman, Obama Wins!

Allan Lichtman, a professor at the American University, recently published his book "The Keys to the White House" (Amazon book).  Lichtman also recently appeared on Lawrence O'Donnell's "The Last Word" on MSNBC where O'Donnell was so taken by Lichtman's logic that he admitted "Okay, that's it, we're done!".

Here's the interview:

Lichtman's criteria cover thirteen points and the general formula has correctly called every presidential election since Reagan's 1984 re-election. Here are the thirteen points:

So Obama clearly wins 9 out of the 13, leaving one tie and conceding 3 points to the challenger.

Does this mean we don't need the undoubtedly fractious campaigning of the next 14 months? Gee, wouldn't that be nice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Buyer's Remorse? A Wisconsin Test ...

There has been a lot of talk in recent months among Democratic Party strategists about "buyer's remorse" pertaining as it pertains to the folks who handed Republicans majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives" in the 2010 mid-term election. Next Tuesday (August 9th) is a special election in several state Senate districts in Wisconsin. According to several political pundits, the Republican "pre-spin" on this recall (and substitute) election is that "oh, it really doesn't matter" (or words to that effect from the Chairman of the Republican National Committee). What's at stake in this special election is taking control of the Wisconsin Senate from the rubber-stamp "do anything you want" Republicans and potentially putting the brakes on several union-busting issues that seem to be test cases for other union-busting that the national Republicans would like to float through the rest of the country.

While I am obviously not a Wisconsin resident, I am tuned into a great national effort called "" and they are organizing a "Call out the Vote" campaign in these final six days before this special election. I have signed up to use some of my "free" cell time on this coming Saturday and Sunday (August 6-7) and call voters to get them to the polls (or send in their absentee ballots if they haven't already).

I've participated in political "call out the vote" operations before--starting  with the 2006 mid-term that got Democrats in the majority of the House of Representative and our first woman Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Also, for candidate Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election and (to a lesser degree) the 2010 mid-term. As many of your may know, Hawaii is fortunate to have two Senators and two Representatives and all are long-time Democratic Party folks.

This Wisconsin special election is about stopping the union-busting effort that has been going on since Republican Scott Walker became governor and found himself with both houses of the Wisconsin state legislature under Republican control and set out to give millions in tax breaks to his big business cronies and pay for it by busting unions in Wisconsin and take away years of fair negotiation in contract and compensation matters. It's time to take back Wisconsin where many of our unions got their initial start. (Side note: There are at least FIVE towns or cities in Wisconsin named "Union"!)

If you are inclined to take a shot at progressive political activity, I encourage you to sign up with Bold Progressives for some calling this coming Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday as your time and telephone availability permits. Here's the link. Do what your conscience tells you to do, but BE PART OF THE ACTION!