WHO BENEFITS FROM AUSTERITY? WALL STREET!

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Editor’s Comment:

You might wonder why people, mostly republicans, are all about “spending cuts.” just for clarification here, spending cuts are what Europe calls “austerity measures.” every policy possibility has been played here and the worst one is clearly austerity or “spending cuts.” everyone calling for austerity is controlled by the banks. Everyone who is not controlled by the banks thinks it isn’t a bad idea to continue government safety nets and sponsor more commerce. Once upon a time Wall Street made its money riding the crest of successful economies, collecting brokerage fees for more and more deals. Not anymore. The Banks are intent on taking the capital — all of it. What then?

People think it makes sense to spend less money to have more. But when the government does that it has less, not more money, thus cutting off vital services. So you might want to think about who benefits as all the major industrialised nations go down the tubes. We know government loses, we know the people lose their services and pay more taxes, so who is it that benefits from the austerity spin?

WALL STREET is the answer. With the level of commerce declining, plummeting they can bet on a sure thing — that interest rates are going to go through the roof, which means that the prices of bonds already issued are going to fall like stones. Only on Wall street can you make bets on interest rates and bets on bonds or groups of bonds or banks or groups of banks. They are pushing the austerity engine and taking us all into a ditch while Wall Street rakes in whatever money is left in our limping economy.

Wall Street has not only turned the lending models on their heads they have succeeded at turning the policy models on their head. The results are unthinkable— Wall Street has created an incentive to kill commerce. And now they are so deep into those bets that the only game in town is putting every economy into crisis. Someone needs to pull the rug out from under these banksters and put them jail where they belong. As society gave them the license to create and grow liquidity for the engine of economic growth so too can society take it away when the banks bite the hands that fed them.

Paul Krugman Debunks Mitt Romney’s Economic Nonsense

By: Jason Easley

On CNN, Paul Krugman called out Mitt Romney today for spouting nonsense about the economy and explained why Romney’s plan to do what Greece did won’t bring prosperity to America.

Here are Krugman’s thoughts on Obama and Romney via CNN:

ZAKARIA: All this said and done, are you enthusiastic about President Obama? You were not for him in the Democratic primary four years ago.

KRUGMAN: Right. I mean, we’re a long way past where I think enthusiasm is the appropriate emotion for anything here.

But he’s learned a lot. And, you know, his heart’s always been in the right place, and I believe his head is now in the right place. And you certainly — of course, I can’t do endorsements, right? It’s a Times rule. So you have no idea who I prefer in this election.

(LAUGHTER)

But he certainly is talking sense about the economy, and Mitt Romney is talking utter nonsense. And you really do worry. In effect…

ZAKARIA: What is the single biggest piece of nonsense that Mitt Romney…

KRUGMAN: Mitt Romney is saying basically that spending cuts are how we’re going to get to prosperity. Mitt Romney is saying, see what’s happening in Greece and in Portugal and in Spain and in Ireland; let’s do that here.

Boy — you know, we’ve just had a massive test, human experimentation on a massive scale, in effect, alternative doctrines of economic management. We’ve just seen which doctrines are disastrous. And the Republican platform is, let’s put that doctrine that has just caused collapse in Europe — let’s put that doctrine into effect right here in America.

Krugman was right on the money. Republicans have been trying to play what they think is a clever game of pretending that what they have proposed isn’t austerity, while at the same time threatening to implement austerity if they don’t get what they want, which is austerity. History shows that economies suffocate under austerity, but Republicans like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan keep pushing the insane idea is that we can do the same thing that Europe did, but expect a different result.

Republicans are using austerity as an economic justification for their policy of feeding the rich while starving everyone else. The Romney and Ryan plans by design don’t force any austerity measures on the wealthy. The austerity is designed for everyone else. The rich would benefit while America’s devolution into a society of haves and have nots would accelerate. The reality is that Spending cuts never bring prosperity, and many of the rank and file Republicans who are championing the cuts fail to understand that those cuts will be coming out of their hides. All of the Republicans over 65 years of age who support Romney haven’t put the pieces together that a vote for Mitt is a vote to slash their Medicare.

Mitt Romney is spewing contradictory economic nonsense, because the Republican platform is becoming little more than historically discredited feel good dreams of trickledown worship and gibberish.

Paul Krugman is right. A majority of his fellow economists know he is right. The American people know he is right, and history proves him correct, but the Republican Party is trapped in a suicidal fantasy economy of their own creation. It is this fantasy that Romney has to pander to in order to keep his base, and it is the same fantasy that Paul Krugman absolutely destroyed.

LIQUIDATE EVERYTHING: LET THEM EAT CAKE

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EDITORIAL COMMENT: Conservatives don’t conserve anything and liberals are not liberating anyone. Regulators don’t regulate, and congress isn’t passing laws that make any sense. Policy makers are getting their orders from Wall Street instead of originating the policy decisions. 216,000 jobs were added last month to our ailing economy, but most of those jobs were in sectors where the going wage won’t pay for even basic living expenses.

They say the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.8% — which is SPIN ON STEROIDS. First you have another 8%-10% who have become so discouraged they have stopped looking for a job. Then you have the underemployed at around 10%-15%. And now, courtesy of the Wall Street spin cycle which the government is parroting, we have something I would call “soft unemployment” — which consists of people who are technically employed but not making a living wage, which looks like it is right around 7%-8%.

So altogether we have an unemployment problem of around 36%+. AND THEY CALL THAT PROGRESS. One third of our labor force is not employed when we need them employed working on an infrastructure that is seriously going to collapse with increasing frequency. Why do we need to wait until the bridges fall, the tunnels collapse, and the electricity and water get turned off?

We all know that no matter how they spin things, the housing market is still falling into an abyss, homelessness is on the rise, and employment, if you want to call it that, is at an all-time low. Half of our economy as the government reports consists of financial services, which means that half of our economy consists of trading meaningless pieces of paper as though this was actually commerce. I thought commerce was like buying a toaster or hiring someone to clean your yard. If you take away the Wall Street vapor asset levels are a small fraction of what is reported, and the level of commerce is around 52%-55% of reported GDP, which means that our debt ratio as a country is much higher because the reported $14 trillion dollar economy is really an $8 trillion economy — and going down.

There is no possibility of true economic recovery unless we get practical and face reality. One of the realities is that we can’t rely on our politicians to do anything that makes any sense. That is quite a challenge. If we don’t stop the sale of homes in fraudulent foreclosures we will be setting the stage for more of the same, and setting the example that crime pays. As the wealth of the nation goes down the toilet, Wall Street strangely is coming up with more and more assets and income —- hmmm.

Just where is all that “money” coming from — or was it there all along, was the bailout a scam rewarding Wall Street for creating the illusion of securitizing debt and thus enabling the largest PONZI scheme in the history of the world?

The Mellon Doctrine

By PAUL KRUGMAN

NY Times

“Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” That, according to Herbert Hoover, was the advice he received from Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary, as America plunged into depression. To be fair, there’s some question about whether Mellon actually said that; all we have is Hoover’s version, written many years later.

But one thing is clear: Mellon-style liquidationism is now the official doctrine of the G.O.P.

Two weeks ago, Republican staff at the Congressional Joint Economic Committee released a report, “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy,” that argued that slashing government spending and employment in the face of a deeply depressed economy would actually create jobs. In part, they invoked the aid of the confidence fairy; more on that in a minute. But the leading argument was pure Mellon.

Here’s the report’s explanation of how layoffs would create jobs: “A smaller government work force increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering labor costs.” Dropping the euphemisms, what this says is that by increasing unemployment, particularly of “educated, skilled workers” — in case you’re wondering, that mainly means schoolteachers — we can drive down wages, which would encourage hiring.

There is, if you think about it, an immediate logical problem here: Republicans are saying that job destruction leads to lower wages, which leads to job creation. But won’t this job creation lead to higher wages, which leads to job destruction, which leads to …? I need some aspirin.

Beyond that, why would lower wages promote higher employment?

There’s a fallacy of composition here: since workers at any individual company may be able to save their jobs by accepting a pay cut, you might think that we can increase overall employment by cutting everyone’s wages. But pay cuts at, say, General Motors have helped save some workers’ jobs by making G.M. more competitive with other companies whose wage costs haven’t fallen. There’s no comparable benefit when you cut everyone’s wages at the same time.

In fact, across-the-board wage cuts would almost certainly reduce, not increase, employment. Why? Because while earnings would fall, debts would not, so a general fall in wages would worsen the debt problems that are, at this point, the principal obstacle to recovery.

In short, Mellonism is as wrong now as it was fourscore years ago.

Now, liquidationism isn’t the only argument the G.O.P. report advances to support the claim that reducing employment actually creates jobs. It also invokes the confidence fairy; that is, it suggests that cuts in public spending will stimulate private spending by raising consumer and business confidence, leading to economic expansion.

Or maybe “suggests” isn’t the right word; “insinuates” may be closer to the mark. For a funny thing has happened lately to the doctrine of “expansionary austerity,” the notion that cutting government spending, even in a slump, leads to faster economic growth.

A year ago, conservatives gleefully trumpeted statistical studies supposedly showing many successful examples of expansionary austerity. Since then, however, those studies have been more or less thoroughly debunked by careful researchers, notably at the International Monetary Fund.

To their credit, the staffers who wrote that G.O.P. report were clearly aware that the evidence no longer supports their position. To their discredit, their response was to make the same old arguments, while adding weasel words to cover themselves: instead of asserting outright that spending cuts are expansionary, the report says that confidence effects of austerity “can boost G.D.P. growth.” Can under what circumstances? Boost relative to what? It doesn’t say.

Did I mention that in Britain, where the government that took power last May bought completely into the doctrine of expansionary austerity, the economy has stalled and business confidence has fallen to a two-year low? And even the government’s new, more pessimistic projections are based on the assumption that highly indebted British households will take on even more debt in the years ahead.

But never mind the lessons of history, or events unfolding across the Atlantic: Republicans are now fully committed to the doctrine that we must destroy employment in order to save it.

And Democrats are offering little pushback. The White House, in particular, has effectively surrendered in the war of ideas; it no longer even tries to make the case against sharp spending cuts in the face of high unemployment.

So that’s the state of policy debate in the world’s greatest nation: one party has embraced 80-year-old economic fallacies, while the other has lost the will to fight. And American families will pay the price.

Berating the Raters and Appraisers

“of AAA-rated subprime-mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006, 93 percent — 93 percent! — have now been downgraded to junk status.”

Editor’s Note: What homeowners and their lawyers, forensic analysts, and experts need to realize is that the ratings scam on Wall street was only one-half of the equation in a scheme to defraud homeowners. If you don’t understand how an appraisal of a home is the same thing as the rating of the security that was sold to fund the home, then you are missing the point and the opportunity to do something meaningful for borrowers.

TILA and Reg Z make it clear that the LENDER is responsible for verification of the appraisal. The LENDER is responsible for viability of the loan, NOT THE BORROWER. IT’S THE LAW! Instead the media and Wall Street PR and lobbyists are drumming a myth into our heads — that 20 million homeowners with securitized loans cooked up a scheme to get a free house. Where did they meet?

We have ample evidence that the entire scheme depended upon reasonable reliance upon those who were in fact not reliable and who were lying to us. If you bought a house for $600,000, the odds are:

  • the house was actually worth less than $400,000
  • the appraiser put the value at $620,000
  • the rating agency called it a triple AAA loan
  • you thought the house was worth what you were paying
  • the house is now worth $300,000
  • your mortgage is at least $500,000
  • Even if you can afford the payments, you will not be able to sell your home for more than the amount owed on it until at least 15-18 years have passed.
  • You will not be able to sell your home for what you paid for at least another 25-30 years, and that is only with the help of inflation
  • Counting inflation, you will never sell your home for what you paid for it or the amount you thought it was worth when you refinanced it

Besides obvious violations of federal and state lending statutes it is pure common law fraud. You are now faced with options that go from bad to worse, UNLESS you sue the people who caused this and your lawyer understands the basic economics of securitization. Your opposition knows all of this. That is why the cases, for the most part ,never get to trial. These cases are won or lost in demanding discovery, enforcing your demands, and relentless pursuit of the truth.

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April 26, 2010
Op-Ed Columnist

Berating the Raters

Let’s hear it for the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Its work on the financial crisis is increasingly looking like the 21st-century version of the Pecora hearings, which helped usher in New Deal-era financial regulation. In the past few days scandalous Wall Street e-mail messages released by the subcommittee have made headlines.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that most of the headlines were about the wrong e-mails. When Goldman Sachs employees bragged about the money they had made by shorting the housing market, it was ugly, but that didn’t amount to wrongdoing.

No, the e-mail messages you should be focusing on are the ones from employees at the credit rating agencies, which bestowed AAA ratings on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of dubious assets, nearly all of which have since turned out to be toxic waste. And no, that’s not hyperbole: of AAA-rated subprime-mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006, 93 percent — 93 percent! — have now been downgraded to junk status.

What those e-mails reveal is a deeply corrupt system. And it’s a system that financial reform, as currently proposed, wouldn’t fix.

The rating agencies began as market researchers, selling assessments of corporate debt to people considering whether to buy that debt. Eventually, however, they morphed into something quite different: companies that were hired by the people selling debt to give that debt a seal of approval.

Those seals of approval came to play a central role in our whole financial system, especially for institutional investors like pension funds, which would buy your bonds if and only if they received that coveted AAA rating.

It was a system that looked dignified and respectable on the surface. Yet it produced huge conflicts of interest. Issuers of debt — which increasingly meant Wall Street firms selling securities they created by slicing and dicing claims on things like subprime mortgages — could choose among several rating agencies. So they could direct their business to whichever agency was most likely to give a favorable verdict, and threaten to pull business from an agency that tried too hard to do its job. It’s all too obvious, in retrospect, how this could have corrupted the process.

And it did. The Senate subcommittee has focused its investigations on the two biggest credit rating agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s; what it has found confirms our worst suspicions. In one e-mail message, an S.& P. employee explains that a meeting is necessary to “discuss adjusting criteria” for assessing housing-backed securities “because of the ongoing threat of losing deals.” Another message complains of having to use resources “to massage the sub-prime and alt-A numbers to preserve market share.” Clearly, the rating agencies skewed their assessments to please their clients.

These skewed assessments, in turn, helped the financial system take on far more risk than it could safely handle. Paul McCulley of Pimco, the bond investor (who coined the term “shadow banks” for the unregulated institutions at the heart of the crisis), recently described it this way: “explosive growth of shadow banking was about the invisible hand having a party, a non-regulated drinking party, with rating agencies handing out fake IDs.”

So what can be done to keep it from happening again?

The bill now before the Senate tries to do something about the rating agencies, but all in all it’s pretty weak on the subject. The only provision that might have teeth is one that would make it easier to sue rating agencies if they engaged in “knowing or reckless failure” to do the right thing. But that surely isn’t enough, given the money at stake — and the fact that Wall Street can afford to hire very, very good lawyers.

What we really need is a fundamental change in the raters’ incentives. We can’t go back to the days when rating agencies made their money by selling big books of statistics; information flows too freely in the Internet age, so nobody would buy the books. Yet something must be done to end the fundamentally corrupt nature of the the issuer-pays system.

An example of what might work is a proposal by Matthew Richardson and Lawrence White of New York University. They suggest a system in which firms issuing bonds continue paying rating agencies to assess those bonds — but in which the Securities and Exchange Commission, not the issuing firm, determines which rating agency gets the business.

I’m not wedded to that particular proposal. But doing nothing isn’t an option. It’s comforting to pretend that the financial crisis was caused by nothing more than honest errors. But it wasn’t; it was, in large part, the result of a corrupt system. And the rating agencies were a big part of that corruption.

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