I could have titled this, “A Fortnight of Dysfunction” except “dysfunction” isn’t exactly right. Anyways, let’s take a look at exactly what Washington has been up to lately:
On 15 April, the bombing st the Boston Marathon put everything on hold, but by the 17th, Congress got the ball rolling again. First up was the Manchin Twoomey bill mandating background checks on gun sales nationwide, especially on almost all gun show and internet sales. As the wingnut fringe went into overdrive, a lot of the usual lies resurfaced. This time around, there were claims that the bill would create a national gun registry, or that it was one step away from doing so.
All of us are still living with Too-Big-To-Fail banks and the systemic Damocles-sword these banks hold over everyone’s head is still a major concern. In case you wonder, it’s even worse now than it was in the spring of 2008, when the first rumblings of dissatisfaction began making markets tremble. With only JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman emerging from the collapse, and Lehman Brothers having been driven to outright failure, every other large investment banking house was swallowed up by retail banks – where you and I deposit our paychecks, hold checking accounts and go for loans. Home lender CountryWide was swallowed by Bank of America, as was Merrill Lynch. JPMorgan got Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. Barclays managed to grab the pieces of Lehman Brothers it wanted for pennies on the dollar. Wells Fargo absorbed Wachovia. PNC ate up National City Corp and instantly became the fifth largest bank in the US. Washington didn’t stop the crash of Wall Street banks, the American depositor did, and therefore, through FDIC deposit insurance, these banks also put taxpayers on the hook in event of a failure – even if it’s a trading position gone sour, like JPMorgan’s London Whale trade or someone like Nick Leeson, who single-handedly sunk one of London’s oldest and most prestigious banks, Barings Brothers.
In other words, because Glass-Steagall was no longer there to prevent it, the danger to every individual and every business is now greater than it was before the financial crisis. The danger to the global economy is very close to absolute as well. Off hand, I cannot think of any country, even Venezuela who, under Hugo Chavez, paid off its debt to both the IMF and World Bank entirely, are insulated from even one, single mega-bank failure.
That’s the background.
While this week’s big buzz is over another of President Obama’s preemptive caves in dealing with Republicans in Congress by offering to cut the growth of the Social Security benefit by adopting Chained CPI which tends to lower cost of living adjustments (yet another GOP proposal the White House has made its own), the real story remains lackluster employment.
As I said in my New Year’s post I do hereby resolve, I’m always up for getting in the faces of enemies. In the political climate we witness today, it amounts to one’s duty to stand right up to those who oppress. Otherwise, you award them the field by default. It is not something I’m used to doing, though I find I am better prepared than most.
That being said, yesterday’s events deserve some airing, and should be recorded where the data will not be lost.
In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Dan Drezner wonders if the GOP can Reboot Republican Foreign Policy (Foreign Affairs has brought this out from behind the paywall until 20 January), and lists some notable achievements various Republican administrations have scored in the post-War period. None of which I have a problem with, but the reboot isn’t going to happen.
hasbara: (Hebrew: הַסְבָּרָה hasbará, “explaining”) Public diplomacy. hasbara
I see this so often that posting about it would go a long way toward meeting last year’s New Years resolution that I post something daily. Maybe I will make it a regular thing. There’s an abundance of material and a critical look at Israeli press relations, while dealt with in the academic literature, would benefit from regular scrutiny.
Someone on twitter was clueless enough to say that the secret video of Mitt Romney addressing fundraisers probably wouldn’t be a big deal. Well, that cat is out of the bag:
This, at about 7 PM Eastern today after it was one of three trending topics (the others being #MuslimRage and #s17, the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street’s birth). So here’s Mittens speaking to a bunch of his peers: