Sunday, January 31, 2010

The 64 Trillion Dollar Question

What is the fate of money going forward? For the purposes of this post, let's define money as that device or product which has the status of legal tender. Federal Reserve Notes and Treasury minted coins are that device, and, where cash money is concerned, only they act as the legal medium of exchange inside The United States, in lieu of barter, to acquire food, fuel, clothing, and other daily necessities. Suffice it to say, that the most visible and tangible product of The Federal Reserve Banking System, namely those highly watermarked green pieces of paper in your wallet emblazoned with esoteric symbols of Freemasonry and various Presidents and other luminaries from the early days of The Republic, are the signature product of a franchise operation.

But for how much longer will the Federal Reserve Bank's signature franchise product be employed by the populace? We might do just as well to ask how much longer will the signature product, and the electronic entries made by banks across the world connected, however tenuously, to that signature franchise product, retain any purchasing power? After all, since its inception in 1913, the creature from Jekyll Island, aka The Federal Reserve Bank, has seen its "notes" lose ninety four percent of their purchasing power, so that now, irrespective of supply and demand dynamics, it takes approximately a dollar to buy what once took a nickel.

I will spare you a recounting of the history of money in the U.S. since The Fed acquired its franchise, except to say that there is a decent brief primer on it in this report. In the meantime, consider the relative purchasing power of gold versus Federal Reserve Notes, and consider the status of finances in the U.S., and for that matter, the state of finances across the globe, and then, as it may be a matter of the utmost importance to your future, financial and otherwise, ask yourself the following 64 trillion dollar question: Is there any reason to expect the long standing trend of franchise money (where the purchasing power of the aforesaid has been consistently eroded over its entire history, and has, especially over the last decade, especially with respect to gold, markedly deteriorated) to change in any meaningful way?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On The Prospects For Revolution? Part 1

Over the last few years, as the economic landscape began to markedly deteriorate, I imagined that the tectonic shifts taking place in The United States might give rise to a revolution of the type that would hearken back to the one in which this nation was founded. I no longer entertain such an outcome, but rather view the idea of a restorative revolution as a quaint bit of fancy.

There are a number of reasons why I feel the prospects for revolution- at least of the sort many of us are familiar with from reading grade school history text books, and seeing depicted on film- are dim, foremost among them is my growing sense, acceptance really, that the population of the United States, composed at it is of people practicing a variety of religions-or none at all-conversing in more than one tongue, and, perhaps, most importantly, hewing to a dizzying range of, for lack of a better phrase, cultural norms, is simply too disparate to launch, let alone see to fruition, something as demanding, as all encompassing, as Enlightenment era, as revolution.

After all, a revolutionary movement of the sort that occurred here approximately two hundred and thirty five years ago- when the country comprised a fraction of its present territory, had far fewer citizens, and far less economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity, to name just a few differences between then and now- requires that an overwhelming majority of the citizenry fervently agree with whatever the basic argument is under girding the revolution. Following on from that, there must be a willingness to make great, and often times, extreme sacrifices to insure the argument's success.

I don't think there are a sufficient number of "We The People" of like mind to even fix on an argument, let alone to make the enormous sacrifices necessary to enact it. Our aforesaid differences are well enough elucidated in the red and blue national voter maps displayed at every Presidential election. And while the famous (or is it infamous) voter map is by no means the ultimate indicator of what I assert is a lack of a cohesive national identity and purpose, it still manages to be, because of its year to year consistency, instructive.

Thrown into the bargain are other factors and forces that keep the populace confused, and otherwise sufficiently off balance enough to defuse any genuinely revolutionary spark-The Republican and Democratic political cartel acting in concert with corporate power is but one force- that might threaten to burst uncontrollably (and dismayingly, at least to the PTB) into flame.

The Tea Party movement, as a pretender to acting as some sort of revolutionary force, comes to mind as an excellent example of a phenomenon that is doomed both by the narrowness of its membership, (they do not represent anything even close to a broad cross section of the U.S. population) the paucity of its agenda, (typical Republican boilerplate of lower taxes and less government) and, in a feature that is sadly endemic to our time, by the seemingly insurmountable tentacles of corporate power. In fact, the Tea Party movement appears to have been largely co-opted by some rather unsavory elements of The Republican Party, which, ultimately exists, (as do The Democrats) as little more than an ombudsman for corporate interests.

I am loathe to admit that the sheer complexity of our existence at this time (and place) almost certainly has a lot to say about why revolution, of the sort most of us would recognize, is impossible, since it would seem to exonerate, or at the very least, deflect attention away from the already mentioned unfortunate forces and factors acting to forestall revolution. Alas, it seems clear that, for the sake of honesty, the issue of complexity, the crushing weight of which the nation, and perhaps the entire world, is groaning under, can't be avoided. More on that, as it relates to the prospects for revolution, in the next installment.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trompe l'oeil

I submit the following piece at the link as evidence that the Obama Administration, despite their apparent full court press on such burning issues as budgets and banks, are not to be trusted in any way as reformers.

I must admit the recent Obama "I'm really, finally, truly going to do something you citizens can feel good about" offensive had me skeptically hopeful for a brief while, what with the Commander in Chief's press conference about his intention to restrain the banks. It was an especially good sales job considering the venerable old duffer Paul Volcker was waiting in the wings during the speech, and then manfully shaking Obama's hand afterwards. Now, it looks more and more like that, and yesterday's talk of freezing the budget next year is only slightly adulterated theatre, since, as the hours have passed, more and more evidence emerges that all the seemingly laudable announcements of activism, are, as economist Edward Harrison observes, just exercises in (putrid) Clintonesque triangulation.

So move along hopefuls, there's nothing here to see; just more political maneuvering designed to throw off us voters and various and sundry political adversaries.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Was it Just a Bad Faith Gambit?

It's only a day later, and President Obama's plan already appears to be something of a ploy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Aftershock of The Scott Brown Election

One may assert that it is merely a coincidence that The President has just announced a major banking reform the day after Republican Scott Brown captured Ted Kennedy's vacant Senate seat, but I have my doubts.

President Obama, with Paul Volcker standing in the background, has just held a press conference to say that going forward the banks will be restrained from using government subsidies to engage in proprietary trading and to sponsor private equity and hedge funds. We will see what comes of this. We will see if Congress rides herd, or tries to obstruct or otherwise water down any proposed legislation. If they do, that may be very unwise politically as elections are coming up and voters, as we saw in MA, are in a lather.

This move is a no brainer, and the fact that Paul Volcker, not Timothy Geithner, and/or Larry Summers, was the only advisor in attendance shaking Obama's hand after his announcement has this citizen more than a little intrigued. After all, the former Fed Chairman, has been, by most accounts, at least to date, a very marginalized figure in the Obama administration. But maybe, just maybe the times are a changing. I remain skeptical, yet hopeful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No Pain, No Gain.

The test of whether Scott Brown's election will have any positive and lasting effect on how and what business is conducted in D.C. is far from clear, though since we are in a prognosticating mood this morning, I'll offer that it will have no meaningful effect. Yes, health care (non) reform is no doubt stalled for now, and maybe even shelved indefinitely.

Call me when the FIRE economy oligarchs aren't running the show, and I will get excited about the prospects for real change. As near as I can tell, all that has happened is the other head in the two headed hydra has just experienced a boost-courtesy of the timid and confused voter- in its chances to displace its rival as the oligarch's primary agent. More and more it appears that the electorate does not, can not, stomach even the mere prospect of weaning themselves off of the political pushers in D.C. lest the voters have no one to blame should a genuinely intrepid political experiment fall on its face. Sorry to say, but that old weight room adage seems appropriate here, "No pain, no gain."

And now I'd like to draw your attention to a piece that analyzes President Obama's performance in his first year in office.

Here are two particularly spot on paragraphs:

The Triangulating Neo-liberal Con

But, Obama is yet another centrist, triangulating New Democrat in the Bill Clinton mold. Don’t be bamboozled by republican propagandists telling you Obama is running left or that he is a ‘socialist.’ This is nonsense – kabuki theater, if you will. They are merely using Obama’s weakness to gain control of the historical political narrative. In reality, Leftists are absolutely outraged at his legislative agenda.

Obama is a corporatist like other New Democrats of the neo-liberal mold. The schtick – as also used by Schroeder in Germany, Koizumi in Japan and Tony Blair in the UK – is to say the things that progressives want to hear, but do the things that big business wants to be done. You have to give a sop to the base here and there like exempting unions from the healthcare bill’s Cadillac policy tax. But, the goal is to curry favor with big business, which is the paymaster of both established parties in the U.S.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The entrapment of the voter continues apace in MA.

As in so many elections, if not all elections with national implications, the prospective lever puller is faced- rhetorically that is-with something like an apocalypse should they dare to not vote for one of the two major party candidates. For those who believe the present Federal legislative incarnation of so called health care reform is necessary, a Martha Coakley defeat-as per the comments of the execrable Barney Frank-represents a catastrophic death knell for the, as yet to pass, health care reform package. Equally, of course, for those who think that the pending health care reform is deplorable, voting for Scott Brown is portrayed as something akin to joining the charge on the British at Bunker Hill.

Suffice it to say that the special election in Massachusetts for the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat is little more than an exercise in extortionate fear mongering. This is about all the two parties really have left-mutually assured demonization-to whip voters into shape. Yet, in truth, neither the Democrats nor The Republicans represent anything like a safe haven from the other. They are simply two vapid, criminal enterprises offering different forms of rapacious and destructive corporate dictated goverment to those foolish enough to engage in the game of either/or. Like two thuggish law enforcement officials playing good cop/bad cop with a hapless suspect in a harshly lit, dingy interrogation room, this is what, electorally speaking, things have been reduced to.

Presently it appears that the wheels are coming off so badly on the crapulous Democratic bus that The Great Mocha Hope has been brought in to bolster the election chances of the state's party hack standard bearer, the aforesaid, Martha Coakley. In what the experts thought should have been a shoo-in election for her, Coakley's mind numbing campaign has faltered badly against her upstart adversary, Scott Brown, a less than savory spewer of typically Republican inanities such as, "Vote for common sense," and "I'm going to change the culture of D.C." Sure, he is. Let's instead try, I can hardly contain my inner excitement when I ponder becoming part of the firmly ensconced, big, fat, gravy train that is Washington, D.C.

I'm happy to say that I'll be voting neither/nor on Tuesday and beyond.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What is Wrong With This Meeting?

Joltin' Joe Biden is holding a closed meeting on transparency.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Whore of Babylon Watch

Do you think there is any coincidence that Sarah Palin, aka The Whore of Babylon, was made a regular member of the Fox network on the same day that Haiti was struck by one of the most catastrophic earthquakes of our time? Perhaps not. Then again, the universe does work in mysterious ways, and the synchronization of the two events could-if one were of the Twilight Zone persuasion- be seen as something of an omen.

This much I feel reasonably confident of, the longer Palin-a mistake of both nature and nurture- hangs around in the public's consciousness, the more likely it becomes that she deleteriously influences the fate of the nation. And given that it is all being held together by the political and economic equivalent of crazy glue, duct tape, and unadulterated fantasy, one would like to see TWOB fade away rather than be given a platform with which to plague the body politic with her own special brand of moronic, mean spirited, lunacy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Burned Again By a Handmaiden of the FIRE Economy.

Below is masterpiece of bedbug letter writing from the office of Massachusett's Senator John Kerry. Notice that, for all the verbiage spewed, it manages to say little to nothing of substance, and-take my word for it- doesn't even begin to address the specific criticisms I levied against the Senate's newly minted and monstrous health care plan. Perhaps that's because, reading between the vapid lines asserting that we need to have "better this" and "more of that", Senator Kerry makes it reasonably clear that he is right on board with the "government's" delivery of tens of millions of the uninsured, and surely uniformed, into the clutches of the nation's grifting insurance industry.

Dear Mr...

Thank you for contacting me to express your opinions on the health care crisis in our country and on health care reform legislation. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter. Reforming our country's health care system and ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable health insurance is a top priority. Today, the United States spends more on health care than other developed countries, yet we have a shorter life expectancy and higher infant mortality. Health care spending represents nearly 17 percent of our economy, totaling over $2 trillion a year. Still, approximately 87 million people-one in three Americans-went without health insurance for some period during 2007 and 2008. This is unacceptable. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I am working to enact comprehensive health care reform that improves the access and delivery of health care for millions of Americans.

According to researchers, about $700 billion is spent each year on health care that fails to improve outcomes. I believe we should eliminate this excess spending and transform how we pay for health services. Payments should be based on the quality of care delivered instead the quantity of services performed. We need to reward providers who coordinate care and improve health outcomes. New investments must be made in our health care workforce to meet the needs of a fully insured population. Through better access to providers as well as prevention and wellness programs, individuals will be able to lead healthier lifestyles, reduce the likelihood of chronic disease and reduce costs. Health reform should also include better access to home and community-based services for those needing long-term care.

The Massachusetts experience with health reform holds valuable lessons for federal reform. Our state has the lowest number of uninsured in the nation due to reform efforts that included: expanded public programs; the development of new insurance standards; subsidized insurance to those with low income, the creation of an insurance exchange for private plans; maintaining safety net hospitals and health centers; and a requirement that individuals and employers each have a responsibility to contribute to health care costs.

Too many individuals cannot afford insurance as health insurance premiums continue to rise faster than inflation and wages. We must control skyrocketing health costs that push families into bankruptcy and place our businesses at a disadvantage in the global economy. Families deserve affordable options when choosing a health plan, which is why I support a public plan option like the one included in the bill passed out of Senator Kennedy's HELP Committee. Under that plan, all Senators and their staff would be required to use the public option as their health insurance. Every American has the right to high quality and affordable health care, regardless of age, income or health status. That is why I recently introduced the Women's Health Insurance Fairness Act to prevent insurers from charging women higher premiums than men for health insurance policies.

As a strong supporter of improving health insurance coverage to children, I introduced Kids First, a bill that would guarantee health coverage to the currently nine million uninsured children in America. In these uncertain economic times, families should never be forced to forgo health insurance for their children. I also supported improvements to the Children's Health Insurance Program, which became law in February 2009. This new public law will strengthen and expand health coverage to an additional four million children, nearly halving the number of uninsured children over the next five years. This new law included legislation that I wrote, the Children's Mental Health Parity Act, which will ensure that children served by this program will also have access to critical mental health services.

A modernized health system must take full advantage of electronic prescribing and health information technology. Electronic prescribing not only saves money through improved efficiency, but more importantly, it reduces medical errors and saves lives. According to the Institute of Medicine, one-third of written prescriptions require follow-up clarification, with medication mistakes causing 7,000 deaths and 1.5 million injuries per year. The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act that was enacted into law in July 2008, included provisions from my electronic prescribing legislation. This law creates incentives for physicians to implement electronic prescribing within their offices.

While I strongly believe there are many things that need to be changed within our current health care system, it is equally important to preserve the parts of our system that work. As we move to make health insurance more affordable, those who are satisfied with their current insurance should be able to keep what they have. The issue of health reform has been the center of many debates and conversations across the country. I support a transparent process that involves the public and provides open access to the facts regarding reform efforts.

As we continue to move forward with health reform I will keep your thoughts and concerns in mind. Thank you again for writing me. Please do not hesitate to contact me about this issue or any other matter of importance to you.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tax Dodgin' Tiny Turbo Tim.

He's finally been caught red handed, and so there will be much hand wringing about the land regarding the revelations that Timothy Geithner told insurance giant AIG...

to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show.

Yes, indeed, there is much gnashing of teeth concerning the necessity of Geithner's outser. By all means, send Turbo Tim packing, but let's not forget the nub of the issue which is that the entire political mise en scene is deeply corrupt such that our Legislature and Executive do little but pimp for the remnants of the almost unimaginably depraved FIRE economy and the death merchants over at The Pentagon. So, while all reasonable men and women rightly insist that The Treasury should immediately be headed by someone else, that is only the first of hundreds of key government positions that should see a new face at their head.

Put more succinctly and forcefully, we need a revolution in the U.S., and we've needed one for quite some time. We desperately need a new system with a whole new set of actors possessing different values and displaying demonstrably different ideas about how we conduct ourselves. And I have news for the doubters, we are going to have it, all of it, because in the immortal words of George Bush Sr., This can not stand.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship?

One has to wonder if the announcement by Democratic Senators Dodd, Ritter, and Dorgan that they are going to retire instead of seeking re-election is a sign that the light (some say they see) coming from inside our dark economic tunnel isn't the end of the tunnel, but is, instead, the headlight of a large vehicle barreling down on the U.S. economy. In the meantime, an explanation for why these folks have decided to cease and desist may be as simple as the fact that all three Senators stand to make a pile by retiring.

This will certainly make Obama's job more difficult going forward since his party, by almost any calculus, loses heft. For my own part, I'm delighted to see these characters go, especially Dodd, who has done enormous damage, especially over the last decade or so. My only hope, and one I give little chance of coming to pass, is that those select voters faced with finding replacements for the aforesaid, choose neither, when confronted with the next batch of eager, suit wearing, would be grifting enablers of the military complex and FIRE economy, aka The Democrats and The Republicans.