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Obama and the Big Wall Street Speaking Fees

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The current issue of THE WEEK magazine arrived this past weekend, and the cover gave me no pleasure. That cover depicted a caricature of former...

Thursday News: Trump Embraces the Worst of Wall St.; So Much...

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by Lowell Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, December 1. Also check out Trevor Noah take on...

Dave Brat Would Kill Wall Street Watchdog

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Originally published on Daily Kos Dave Brat cosponsored HR 3118, "To eliminate the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection by repealing title X of the Dodd-Frank...

Pity the Billionaire

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or, if you prefer the complete title of the new book by Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire:  The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right.

If you have been a regular reader of Daily Kos over the past few years, you will have few earthshaking moments while reading this book - almost all of the points Frank makes have appeared here, in front-page stories and in posts by reader.  Nevertheless this book may qualify as essential reading for how much it brings together, and in the fashion it provides a coherent explanation of what has happened, from the strategy and tactics of those who have already destroyed trillions of the wealth of others in America and abroad, in the failure of Obama and Cogressional Democrats to have prevented it from happening and in allowing it - at least until recently - to continue pretty much unabated. Or, as Frank puts it near the end of his Introduction,  

This is the story of a swindle that will have terrible consequences down the road.  And although it sounds curious to say so, the newest Right has met its goals not by deception alone - although there has benn a great deal of this - but by offering and idealism so powerful that it clouds its partisans' perceptions of reality.   (p. 12)

And if there is a key, brief takeaway that can be learned from how they operated, it is found on p. 33:

To play by the rules was a chump's game.

Today’s Proof Corporate Pay is Nonsensical: Rupert Murdoch

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Rupert MurdochIn the last year, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (owner of Fox) has seen its reputation destroyed by a phone hacking scandal, lost half a billion dollars on its MySpace gamble, and its stock sit down 17% from 5 years ago.

So in a true free market, its executives would get nothing, right? Maybe a note saying "be glad we didn't fire you" and a coupon for a free breakfast at Biscuitville? Instead, here's how our corporatocracy reacts:

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, received a $12.5m (£7.7m) cash bonus for the last financial year, while his total remuneration rose 47% to $33m, according to the company's annual statement to shareholders.

His son James Murdoch - who is deputy chief operating officer, with responsibility for News Corp's business in Europe and Asia - was awarded a $6m cash bonus as part of an $18m pay package - a 74% rise on his 2010 take-home pay.

For more on how Wall Street rewards its executives at the expense of the middle class, read the Center for American Progress report, Supersize This (PDF).

Are Individuals Responsible… in all cases?

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There is a curious double standard running through what passes for civil discourse in today's political world. A common mantra from political leadership (especially the Republican Party) is that individuals must be responsible for their own condition. Hence, we are told that we should prudently save money all our lives for our health care and our retirement, and not depend on "entitlements;" that home buyers should never have bought houses they couldn't afford, that they should never have taken out exotic mortgages which they could not pay off; that every adult must understand financing, parse the fine print in contracts for everything from telephone service to automobile insurance, and know how to make intelligent choices in modern life from i-pads to vegetables.

We must, each and every one, be smart consumers in the market, and our market choices are defined as true freedom--- they tell us that nanny government distorts the market, is expensive, and interferes with freedom. When an elderly grandmother at a Republican town hall begs her Congressman not to monkey with her Social Security on which she depends, his response is, "When are you going to learn to be personally responsible?"

On the other hand, there is not a demand that institutions like banks and corporations show similar responsibility. While corporations are now officially and legally "people," somehow the concept of personal responsibility stalls out, lost in a protective fog. The idea is that "market forces" compel institutions to certain behavior, and government interference destroys that freedom as defined above.  Regulation of, say, exotic mortgages and derivatives is castigated as heretical. Nevertheless, when the stock market goes crazy with volatility, currency markets pummel the dollar, the private sector stops hiring, or there is a sudden public outcry against raising the debt ceiling, these are described as spontaneous outbursts of popular sentiment and public opinion. Thus, banks are not lending money because "they" are afraid of a double dip recession; and reporters say "the market reacted negatively to the jobs report," or to the debt ceiling standoff, or to the retirement of Steve Jobs from Apple.  

How to Fix the Foreclosure Mess (Because America Is Like Secretariat)

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Surely you have noticed that the new crisis du jour in the mass media is Foreclosures. It looks more and more as though we will not be able to re-start America's economy successfully until we resolve the foreclosure crisis. The early problem of defaults on the so-called sub-prime mortgages was merely a foothill leading to the Himalayas of today's foreclosures, where banks and primary investors stand to lose billions upon billions, one hundred percent of each of many of the loans they have made on residential real estate in the United States, and literally thousands upon thousands of otherwise normal middle class families are being put out on the street. Other homeowners, faced with rising mortgage payments on a home whose value has sunk well below the amount of their mortgage, (so they are "underwater") are taking a hike, walking away, performing a "strategic default."  What if there is a way for the banks and investors to "lose" a far smaller percentage, say no more than 30 to 60 percent, of the loan amounts, and at the same time keep those families in their homes---- without a new bailout or fancy government program?  There is.  

Stop Fraudulent Foreclosures, Then Fix The Mess

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Finally, the mainstream is noticing a long-term story that's been glossed over: the fact that the famous "Rule of Law' applies only to little folks, not to the banksters and the world financial elite. That is, the masters of the universe, who invented slapdash mortgages "too good to be true," marketed them relentlessly to little folks yearning to own their very own homes, always expected the little folks would never default on their home-based debt (because of their sacred obligation to pay on their mortgage contracts), but the clever masters themselves never ever paid the slightest attention to their own legal obligations in their fancy money-making scenario.

Next, those banksters on Wall Street butchered these contorted mortgages into their various components parts and, based on so-expert quantitative analyses, took the resultant financial junk food and spread the manure far and wide around the globe, all dressed up as securitized and risk-rated "investments" when they actually were casino bets where, of course, the Wall Street insiders had the advantage, insured as the bets were by global insurance companies through so-called derivatives.  When the schemes blew up, we all know how the little folk taxpayers were then dragooned into bailing out the financial geniuses on the theory that only this would prevent a total collapse of Western, no, of the world's, economy.... Now, the other shoe drops.

Why I am Insulted

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By now most of us acknowledge the fact that, however sincere many members of the Tea Party are, and regardless of however many small donations from small voters their candidates receive, the Tea Party is in fact funded by various corporate interests, like the Koch Brothers, often through various cut-outs or patriotically named foundations. Indeed, the whole Tea Party movement has been given significantly favorable reporting by all the corporate media, and one popular TV channel, Fox news, with one of its leading lights, Glen Beck, virtually issues marching orders laying out the agenda and issues for the Tea Party membership.

And what has this corporate money bought for itself, aside from the reality show creation of a boisterous, self-righteous revivalist mob (that pundits desperately treat like a valid political movement operating with a sensible political plan, in an attempt to give it credibility and respect)? The corporate money has bought the selection of several lunatic fringe candidates masquerading as formal Republican candidates----- for example, I  keep receiving fund-raising letters from Sharon Angle in Nevada, who plasters in bold letters across the envelope phrases like "I am the official Republican candidate to defeat Harry Reid."  

Welcome the New Sheriff of Wall Street

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Obama finally listened to his base, and did what Bush so often did---- he by-passed Congress in making a critical but controversial appointment, and named Elizabeth Warren to establish and lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  It was, after all, her idea, and, as I am sure you know, Wall Street financiers and their lackeys, the Republicans in Congress, desperately tried to prevent the appointment. Why would one little lady so frighten these masters of the universe?  MoveOn.org provided a list of 5 things you should know about Ms. Warren, and a video of her "finest moments," and here they are: