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Friday, October 27, 2017

TARP Paid Off: But What about the Foreclosures?

TARP, the "bailout" for banks rather than mortgage borrowers, was the first big issue facing the Obama administration before the roughly $800 billion stimulus plan and the health insurance overhaul that stoked the rise of the Tea Party movement. After supporting TARP, several Republicans lost in the elections of 2010 largely because of their votes. For many Americans, TARP is a symbol of big government at its worst, intervening in private markets with taxpayers’ billions to save Wall Street plutocrats while average Americans continued to struggle to make mortgage payments or lost their houses outright.  “This is the best federal program of any real size to be despised by the public like this,” said Douglas J. Elliott, a former investment banker now associated with the Brookings Institution. “It was probably the only effective method available to us to keep from having a financial meltdown much worse than we actually had. Had that happened, unemployment would be substantially higher than it is now, the deficit would have gone up even more than it has,” Mr. Elliott added. “But it really cuts against the grain for a public that is so angry at banks to think that something that so plainly helped the banks could also be good for the public.” TARP was good for the public not in that the funds enabled Wall Street bonuses; rather, the good was solely on the macro level, as the frozen credit markets eventually thawed such that the financial system meltdown was averted.  However, this does not mean that it was "the only effective method available."

The full essay is at "TARP and Foreclosures."

The Receding Chinese-American Economic Paradigm in 2011: Imbalances within Mutual Benefit

“For decades,” according to The Wall Street Journal, “plentiful Chinese labor kept down costs of a range of goods bought by Americans.” Then, roughly in 2010, the Chinese government began supporting higher wages to reduce labor unrest and boost domestic consumption while reducing reliance on exports. Partially as a result of this, the world saw higher prices for commodities in 2011; oil was another factor as protests in the Middle East increased political risk in the calculations of future supply (amid speculation). A shrinking workforce in China was also putting pressure on the labor cost. Even though relatively cheap labor was still in the interior of the country, higher transportation costs mitigated the cost advantage. The prevailing paradigm was showing cracks. To be sure, it certainly had them.



Other Priorities and Side-Shows Eclipsing a Historical Debate on the U.S. Government's Deficits and Debt

Writing in November of 2010, Fareed Zakaria opined that the “fate of the U.S.” would be decided “over the next year.” In truth, the fates may have pronounced their verdict on the “city on the hill” long before the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Denial can be a strong palliative in the midst of a pattern of sustained lapses in self-disciple and civic virtue—qualities that the American Founding Fathers had presumed are necessary to any viable republic.

The full essay is at "Other Priorities."

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Corporations as Citizens: A Right to Make Political Donations?

In Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court held that corporations and unions “should have the same right as individuals to pay for election ads and other electioneering,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Not addressed in the court’s decision was whether corporations and unions also have “the same right as individuals to donate money directly to candidates for Congress or the White House.”

Democracy and the Courts: Alternative Checks on Austerity in Greece

In May 2011, “Athens agreed to impose a new $9 billion round of tax increases and spending cuts and speed up nearly $75 billion in promised privatizations.” In early June, a new round of tightening was being planned by the Greek government. It was feared that those cuts would deepen the recession and thus further shrink the tax base, making it even harder for the government to cut its deficit. Meanwhile, Reuters reported, “Greeks are showing signs of reaching the limits of their endurance as budget cuts imposed under Greece's first bailout a year ago have helped to push unemployment close to 16 percent.” The news service cited police reports of more than 80,000 people packing the main Syntagma square outside parliament on June 6th—the 12th consecutive day of protesting there.

                                              Reuters

On the Myopic Hyperbole of Wall Street: Overblowing Small Changes

I suppose that after looking at something closely for a long period of time, virtually anyone would perceive a small change in it as huge. This is reflected in how people formulate graphs. In particular, typically only a small interval is shown, the perceptual impact of which is that small changes look big. For example, Msnbc.com reported on June 8, 2011 that the price of oil “soared” on that day “almost $2 to near $101 a barrel.” My reaction in reading the report was that the word “soared” indicates a lack of perspective on Wall Street and the media.

The full essay is at "Exaggerating Market Volatility."

The Fiat 500: The American Taste for Convenience Revealed

One means of doing cross-cultural comparison is by contrasting consumer tastes; such proclivities tend to evince societal mores by which societies can be perceived to be distinctive. In the case of the E.U. and U.S., Fiat, a European auto company that controls Chrysler, an American company, is discovering some societal differences as it refashions the Fiat 500 for American customers.

The full essay is at "American Consumer Tastes."

Monday, October 23, 2017

Marx and Chinese Dynasties: A Postmortem on Occupy Wall Street

My essay that suggests that the Occupy Wall Street protests should have focused on the large corporation itself (i.e., that the large corporate form be expunged from modern society) rather than on a myriad of redistribution agendas resonates with Marx’s theory of revolution. In that theory, the proletariat finally throws off the chains and subdues the hitherto hegemonic capitalists in a materialist reading of Hegel's idea that history progresses toward greater freedom of the human spirit. The redistributive push of the Occupy movement fellf short because even increased redistribution advocated would have been within extant the political-economic system that the corporations dominate and run (i.e., including Congress). If the protesters were in fact serious about confronting corporate capitalism, their movement should have been radical rather than reformist because reforms are within the system that works for and by corporations.

The full essay is at "Marx and Chinese Dynasties: A Post-Mortem on Occupy Wall Street." 

On the Unfairness of the Bonus System on Wall Street

Craig A. Dubow, Gannett’s former chief executive, had a short six-year tenure that was, by most accounts according to The New York Times, “a disaster.” David Carr reports: “Gannett’s stock price declined to about $10 a share from a high of $75 the day after [Dubow] took over; the number of employees at Gannett plummeted to 32,000 from about 52,000, resulting in a remarkable diminution in journalistic boots on the ground at the 82 newspapers the company owns. . . .  the company strip-mined its newspapers in search of earnings, leaving many communities with far less original, serious reporting. . . . Not only did Mr. Dubow retire under his own power because of health reasons, he got a mash note from Marjorie Magner, a member of Gannett’s board, who said without irony that ‘Craig championed our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information.’ But the board gave him far more than undeserved plaudits. Mr. Dubow walked out the door with just under $37.1 million in retirement, health and disability benefits. That comes on top of a combined $16 million in salary and bonuses in the last two years.”

Besides the inherent unfairness in an incompetent manager getting millions of dollars in compensation (for championing incompetence?), it is morally problematic when, as Carr puts it, “the consequences of bad decisions land on everyone except those who made them.” 

The full essay is at "Unfair Bonuses on Wall St."


Source:

 David Carr, “Why Not Occupy Newsrooms?” The New York Times, October 24, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/24/business/media/why-not-occupy-newsrooms.html

Two Conflicting Views of E.U. Federalism: Accounting for Brexit

"You have lost a good opportunity to shut up," Sarkozy said to Cameron during a bitter two-hour exchange which held up a meeting of all 27 European Union states on 23 October 2011, according to the Guardian. Translating the relatively polite European English into American slang, Sarkozy’s statement becomes, Shut the fuck up. "We are sick of you criticizing us and telling us what to do," Sarkozy added. "You say you hate the euro, and now you want to interfere in our meetings." Cameron had insisted on participating in the euro zone meetings because he anticipated that, perhaps along the lines of taxation without representation, unfavorable regulations would be imposed on Britain without its consent, according to The Telegraph. Cameron also claimed that the euro zone crisis was having a "chilling effect" on all European states, including Britain. He insisted that all 27 E.U. state governments, rather than just the 17 using the euro, should be able to have the final say over Europe's rescue package, according to The GuardianI submit that the argument portends in retrospect, at least, the decision taken by the British to secede from the Union. 

The full essay is at "Two Conflicting Views of E.U. federalism."


Source:

Bonnie Kavoussi, “Nicolas Sarkozy To David Cameron: ‘You Have Lost a Good Opportunity To Shut Up’,” The Huffington Post, October 24, 2011. 

Inequality in Corporate Capitalism: Beyond Redistribution

I contend that a concern that too much income or wealth is concentrated “at the top” in the U.S. does not necessarily translate into a demand for redistribution; rather, the inequality itself may be thought dangerous to the viability of a representative democracy (i.e., a republic form of government) and inherently unfair. Even though redistribution may be entailed as large banks and business corporations are dismembered, ridding the system of the concentrations of wealth does not in itself mean that those “at the bottom” should or would necessarily become richer. For example, to say that CEOs should not be allowed to make millions of dollars, especially when their companies or banks lose money, does not imply redistribution because there is no claim that the compensation be directed to others for their benefit. The point is that the compensation itself is unfair. Indeed, saying that corporate capitalism is itself unfair because some people benefit beyond what they deserve is not to say that their benefits should be redistributed; rather, the point is simply that such benefits should not be allowed.

The full essay is at "Inequality in Corporate Capitalism."

Chinese Censorship: Beyond the FCC in the U.S.

Regarding the Chinese government’s attempts to rein in microblogging and television programming, the New York Timeobserved in 2011, “Political censorship in this authoritarian state remains absolute.” It is therefore perhaps all the more surprising that bloggers in China have been able to post “whistle-blowing” reports at the expense (and embarrassment) of the political elite. That this has occurred at all suggests that once a Jennie gets out of its bottle, it is difficult to reverse course. This is the traditional Western view. Using television programming as a case study, I submit that the picture is actually more complex than the antiquated "black and white" version may suggest. 

The full essay is at "Chinese Censorship."

Source:
Sharon LaFraniere, Michael Wines, and Edward Wong, “China Reins in Entertainment and Bloggers,” The New York Times, October 27, 2011. 


China’s Strategy: Divide the Vulnerable E.U.

During the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787, delegates from the sovereign states feared that foreign states would seek to divide their American counterparts to the extent that the United States could split apart. So the delegates voted to move foreign policy from the state to the federal level. Unlike this case, government officials of the E.U. states held foreign policy closely rather than ceding it to the federal level. Whereas in the American case the delegates could adopt a federal perspective as distinguished from the immediate interests of the respective state governments, the state officials in the European Council can be taken even as personifications of their respective state interests. Foreign powers can take advantage of the state officials’ conflict of interest to the extent that the very functioning of the European Union is compromised.

China provides a case in point.


The full essay is at "China Carving Up the E.U."