Saturday, March 29, 2014

Banking Union Time Bomb: Eurocrats Authorize Bailouts AND Bail-Ins

by Ellen Brown
As things stand, the banks are the permanent government of the country, whichever party is in power.
 – Lord Skidelsky, House of Lords, UK Parliament, 31 March 2011)
On March 20, 2014, European Union officials reached an historic agreement to create a single agency to handle failing banks. Media attention has focused on the agreement involving the single resolution mechanism (SRM), a uniform system for closing failed banks. But the real story for taxpayers and depositors is the heightened threat to their pocketbooks of a deal that now authorizes both bailouts and “bail-ins” – the confiscation of depositor funds. The deal involves multiple concessions to different countries and may be illegal under the rules of the EU Parliament; but it is being rushed through to lock taxpayer and depositor liability into place before the dire state of Eurozone banks is exposed.

ALEC and Big Polluters Try to Attack Limits on Climate Change Pollution One State at a Time

by Frances Beinecke
Last week the Kentucky legislature passed a bill to undermine national standards to reduce climate change pollution. The bill would prop up the profits of Kentucky’s biggest polluters while saddling ordinary Kentuckians with higher electricity bills.

A coal-friendly bill may not be surprising in Kentucky, but this effort didn’t originate in the Bluegrass State. The bill’s language mirrors legislation being pushed in statehouses across the country by the American Legislative Exchange Council—a cabal of corporate giants and Tea Party supporters including the Koch brothers, Peabody Coal, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel companies.

The Future of Work in America, Part 2: How the Weakening of American Labor Led to the Shrinking of America’s Middle Class

Mar 26, 2014, Richard Kirsch

When General Motors President Charles Wilson told a U.S. Senate Committee in 1953 that what was good for General Motors was good for the country, he captured an era in which the good wages and benefits earned by the workers at U.S. manufacturing companies powered the nation’s economy and built the middle class.

But sixty years later, what is good for the GM of our day – Walmart – is clearly not good for America, as a comparison between the biggest private employers of both eras underscores. While the American auto industry operated on the premise of one of its founders, Henry Ford, that workers should get paid enough to buy its costly products, Walmart operates on the premise that its workers should get paid so little that the only place they can afford to shop is at their low-priced employer.

The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers and Secure Prosperity for All

Mar 25, 2014, Richard Kirsch
The Future of Work is bringing together thought and action leaders from multiple fields to re-imagine a 21st century social contract that expands workers’ rights and increases the number of living wage jobs. The Future of Work is focusing on three areas: promoting new and innovative strategies for worker organizing and representation; raising the floor of labor market standards and strengthening enforcement of labor laws and standards; and assuring access to good jobs for women and workers of color.

The Stakes On Hobby Lobby Cases Are Much Bigger Than Birth Control

It’s obviously also an attempt by the case’s conservative backers to undermine the ACA and limit its reach -- a political tactic made apparent by the fact that Hobby Lobby covered the contraceptive options it’s now suing over.

Paul Krugman: A Panicked Press Turns Economics Into a Morality Play

Recently the big, front-page headline on the Financial Times website - at least in the U.S. edition - led to an article about the Bank for International Settlements. According to the F.T., the bank is warning that "forward guidance" - the attempt to drive long-term interest rates down by promising to keep short-term rates low for a long time - "could endanger the international financial system." Typical B.I.S., I thought - the gnomes of Basel have been consistently against any policies that might restore full employment, and have been into punishment all the way. And I got ready to write a blog post bashing the organization.

Brian Beutler: Scalia & co. can still destroy Obamacare — without you seeing it coming

Here's the absurd case, currently in a federal appeals court, that could kill subsidies in 36 states 

Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the ACA’s contraception requirement carries huge stakes, but mostly because they aren’t bounded by Obamacare itself. Its threat to the ACA’s actual program architecture is pretty small.

By contrast, while the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in that case Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was simultaneously hearing oral arguments in a case that is bounded by Obamacare, but threatens to shatter it.

The case is Halbig v. Sebelius. I wrote about it here, most recently when a federal judge did the right thing and essentially called the challenge horseshit. It is based on an opportunistic reading of sloppy text in the statute, and perpetuated by professional liars who claim that Congress possibly wanted to withhold insurance subsidies from people in states that did not build their own exchanges, knowing that what they’re saying is false.

Lessons for Other States from Kansas' Massive Tax Cuts

By Michael Leachman and Chris Mai
March 27, 2014

Tax cuts enacted in Kansas in 2012 were among the largest ever enacted by any state, and have since been held up by tax-cut proponents in other states as a model worth replicating.  In truth, Kansas is a cautionary tale, not a model.  As other states recover from the recent recession and turn toward the future, Kansas’ huge tax cuts have left that state’s schools and other public services stuck in the recession, and declining further — a serious threat to the state’s long-term economic vitality. Meanwhile, promises of immediate economic improvement have utterly failed to materialize.

Class War with a Smiley Face

Kathleen Geier
March 28, 2014

In Silicon Valley there really is a class war going on, a wage-fixing cartel that’s pitting the one percent against everyone else. Thomas Piketty, the economist who wrote the new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, is most famous for his insight that economic inequality is mostly driven by the top one percent of income earners. The incomes of the top one percent have pulled away from the rest of us and their economic interests have, over time, come to diverge dramatically from those of the mainstream of American society. The one percenters are waging class war not just on the traditional targets, poor and working class Americans, but increasingly, on middle class professionals as well.

Paul Krugman: What America Isn't, or Anyway Wasn't

I get mail:
Paul you are a subhuman communist traitor who should be deported. You are a disgrace to america’s founders and an affront to the Constitution. Republicans believe in protecting the money of WORKERS not RECEIVERS. All workers, poor and rich, should be protected from high taxes equally.
Well, I get at least one of these each day. But it’s kind of interesting to read this right after reviewing Piketty, because one point Piketty makes is that the modern notion that redistribution and “penalizing success” is un- and anti-American is completely at odds with our country’s actual history.

Sam Pizzigati: Our Last Flesh-and-Blood Link to Plutocracy 1.0

Let us pause now to pay our respects to Bunny Mellon. She died last week on her 4,000-acre farm in Virginia’s fabled horse country. But no tears, please. Bunny — nobody called her by her given name Rachel — lived a long and rich life.

Very long. Very rich.

One hundred and three at her death, Bunny Mellon spent every year of her century-plus existence in luxury. Her grandfather had made a fortune off Listerine mouthwash. Her father ran the Gillette razor company.

More Proof Corporate Tax Cuts Have Done More Harm Than Good

Richard Long

The taxes paid by corporations today are near record lows as a percentage of the United States’ total tax bill, even as they are recording massive profits. Yet the unemployment rate is still high. However, if we turned back the clock on corporate tax rates and returned to Nixon-era levels and closed loopholes, millions of American jobs would be created, according to The Disappearing Corporate Tax Base, a new report released today.

The study, produced by the Center for Effective Government and National People’s Action, highlights the damage done by hewing to a central conservative tenet, that “cutting corporate taxes will stimulate job creation and grow the economy.” The report shows the aftermath of a lower corporate tax rate on state budgets, and argues that a slight increase in the corporate share of federal revenues would restore cuts to education and public services and add an additional 3.2 million jobs.

Citigroup Flunks Stress Test: Ghosts of Glass-Steagall Haunt the Fed

By Pam Martens: March 27, 2014

It only took three press releases over as many days but the Federal Reserve finally spit out the truth yesterday on its stress tests of the big banks: Citigroup, the largest bank bailout recipient of 2008, still doesn’t have its house in order more than five years later. How many more years of economic malaise will it take before the delusional Fed admits to the public that only the restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, separating banks holding insured deposits from gambling casinos on Wall Street, will put our financial system back on sound footing?

Inside the Koch brothers' campus crusade

The billionaire industrialists aren’t just investing in politicians, but also young hearts and minds

By Dave Levinthal, 5:01 am, March 27, 2014 Updated: 10:22 am, March 27, 2014

The campus of Koch Brothers Academy spans a nation.

Learn about the “role of government institutions in a capitalistic society” at South Carolina’s College of Charleston.

Dive into the “integrated study of philosophy, politics and economics” at Duke University and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

And philosophize about the “moral imperatives of free markets and individual liberty” at the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University in Alabama.

Spy Agencies, Not Politicians, Hold the Cards in Washington

Thursday, 27 March 2014 11:11  
By William Greider, The Nation | Op-Ed 

I am addicted to House of Cards, the British and American versions, but I suggest that both TV series have been looking at the wrong game.

On television, the story line is about a wicked political schemer, accompanied by his wicked wife, who climbs to the ultimate perch of power—prime minister or president—through fiendishly malevolent manipulations, including homicide. In the real world of Washington, however, politicians look more like impotent innocents compared to their true masters. It is the spooks and the spies who shuffle the deck and deal the cards. They hide their cut-throat intrigues behind bland initials—the CIA and the NSA.

In recent weeks, a lurid real-life melodrama has been playing out in the nation's capital that has the flavor of old-fashioned conspiracy theories. The two clandestine agencies are the true puppet masters.

Richard Eskow: Bill Clinton and Steny Hoyer: The “Wall Street Democrats” Fight Back

If progressive and populist ideas resonate with most voters, some people have asked, why isn’t the Democratic Party doing better in the polls? Here’s one reason: Some of the party’s most prominent leaders are still pushing Wall Street’s unpopular and discredited economic platform.

Recent speeches by former President Bill Clinton and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer showed that Wall Street continues to hold considerable sway in their party, despite the fact that its austerity agenda has failed. Its “deficits over growth” ideology has wounded both Europe and the United States. To hear Clinton and Hoyer speak, you’d think we’d learned nothing from the economic experience of the last five years.

It Saves Millions To Simply Give Homeless People A Place To Live

By Scott Keyes on March 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm

It is cheaper to give homeless people a home than it is to leave them on the streets.

That’s not just the opinion of advocates working to end homelessness, nor is it the opinion of homeless people themselves. It is a fact that has been borne out by studies across the country, from Florida to Colorado and beyond.

The latest analysis to back up this fact comes out of Charlotte, where researchers from the University of North Carolina Charlotte examined a recently constructed apartment complex that was oriented towards homeless people.

Paul Krugman: Redefining Conservatism in the US

Here's a term we really need: Center-Right In Name Only.

John Sides at The Monkey Cage - a political science blog from The Washington Post that you should be reading - recently took on the often-repeated claim that the United States is a center-right nation, which is mainly based on polls showing that many more Americans identify themselves as conservatives than as liberals. Mr. Sides, in a post published on March 6, pointed out that if you ask people about their position on issues, as opposed to how they label themselves, the picture is reversed: "Looked at this way, almost 30 percent of Americans are 'consistent liberals' - people who call themselves liberals and have liberal politics," Mr. Sides, a political-science professor, wrote. "Only 15 percent are 'consistent conservatives' - people who call themselves conservative and have conservative politics. Nearly 30 percent are people who identify as conservative but actually express liberal views. The United States appears to be a center-right nation in name only."

Dave Dayen: The Next Financial Crisis Looms

Thanks to bank misconduct, odds are that trouble will present itself again soon. And this is what it will look like

Bloomberg financial reporter Bob Ivry has written an entertaining new book, “The Seven Sins of Wall Street,” which, instead of rehashing the various illegal activities that triggered the financial meltdown, focuses on what the banks have been up to since the crisis. Much of it would be familiar to readers of this space: the Bank of America whistle-blowers who were instructed to lie to homeowners, and received gift card bonuses for pushing them into foreclosure; the London Whale derivatives trade that lost JPMorgan Chase more than $6 billion; the investment banks who traded commodities while also operating physical commodity warehouses and facilities; and more. All the while, megabanks continue to enjoy subsidies on their borrowing costs because of the (accurate) perception that they will get bailed out in the event of any trouble.

The odds are that trouble will present itself soon.

Paul Krugman: Anger, Not Envy, Is Raising American's Ire

Suddenly, or so it seems, inequality has surged into public consciousness - and neither the 1 percent nor its reliable defenders seem to know how to cope.

Some of the reactions are crazy - "it's Kristallnacht," "they're coming to kill us" - and the craziness is quite widespread.

Notice how many billionaires, plus of course The Wall Street Journal, rallied around the venture capitalist Tom Perkins (who compared public criticism of the 1 percent to Nazi attacks on Jews in a letter to the editor of The Journal in January).

Ted Rall: Isn't It Time We Talk About the Skyrocketing Suicide Epidemic?

With modernity comes depression; depression sometimes leads to suicide [6]. And it’s a global phenomenon. “The World Health Organization reports that suicide rates have increased 60 percent over the past 50 years, most strikingly in the developing world, and that by 2020 depression will be the second most prevalent medical condition in the world,” T.M. Luhrmann wrote [7] in The New York Times recently.

Why are so many people opting out?

Rep. Alan Grayson: Money, Money, Everywhere

In an age of disparity, corporate wealth is far from an indicator of economic health. 

I read a number of finance-industry newsletters. I want to share with you a recent excerpt from one of them. Here it is:

This is the amount of cash that S&P 500 companies (excluding banks and other financial institutions) are currently sitting on. As of the beginning of the third quarter, the largest U.S. companies collectively held $1.27 trillion. That’s about 13.5 percent more than this time last year. ...

Where is this cash coming from? Well, borrowing accounts for some of it. But mostly, it’s that companies are simply generating cash faster than they are spending it.
Companies sitting on cash—the financial newsletter thinks that this is great news! Spectacular news! How nice—for them.

10 Poverty Myths, Busted

No, single moms aren't the problem. And neither are absentee dads.

—By Erika Eichelberger  |  March/April 2014 Issue

1. Single moms are the problem. Only 9 percent of low-income, urban moms have been single throughout their child's first five years. Thirty-five percent were married to, or in a relationship with, the child's father for that entire time.*

2. Absent dads are the problem. Sixty percent of low-income dads see at least one of their children daily. Another 16 percent see their children weekly.*

The Right's New 'Welfare Queens': The Middle Class

Posted by George Packer

Two weeks ago, I was invited to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on the subject of the economic problems of the middle class. Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, who became chairman of the committee in February, let me know that he wanted someone to bring news from outside Washington to the hearing. He wanted me to tell a few of the stories about hard-pressed Americans from my book “The Unwinding,” to help him steer the committee’s agenda in a new direction. This isn’t the sort of request I regularly receive, so I said yes.

There were four other panelists that Thursday morning at the committee-room table in the Dirksen Senate Office Building: the chief economist of the small-business lobby; the director of the left-leaning Tax Policy Center; an economist from a Chicago financial-services firm; and Lawrence Lindsey, who was a top economic adviser to George W. Bush and an architect of the huge 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and is now a consultant in Washington. Looking down from the dais were Wyden and the committee’s ranking Republican, Orrin Hatch, of Utah, along with a handful of other committee members who were present at various points during the hearing: the Republicans Charles Grassley, of Iowa, and John Thune, of South Dakota, as well as the Democrats Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan; Sherrod Brown, of Ohio; and Michael Bennet, of Colorado.

Overwhelming Evidence that Half of America is In or Near Poverty

By Paul Buchheit

Comments like these are condescending and self-righteous. They display an ignorance of the needs of lower-income and middle-income families in America. The costs of food and housing and education and health care and transportation and child care and taxes have been well-defined by organizations such as the Economic Policy Institute [6], which calculated that a U.S. family of three would require an average of about $48,000 a year to meet basic needs; and by the Working Poor Families Project [7], which estimates the income required for basic needs for a family of four at about $45,000. The median household income [8] is $51,000.

Thomas Frank: The Hope Diet: Would the Tea Party fall for this?

Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both peddled a diet of hope. It's time for Democrats to demand more of a sure thing 

It is a peculiar coincidence that the last two Democratic presidents, men unusually anxious to compromise and capitulate, have also chosen to market themselves as homegrown philosophers. More curious still, both have presented their hard-won insights in the great American tradition of positive thinking. Like so many aphorists-on-the-make before them, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama entered the marketplace of ideas selling tidy homilies on the very same concept: Hope.

Then again, perhaps there is something more to all this than coincidence. Maybe this high-minded creed and these two presidents’ fecklessness actually complement and explain one another. Maybe “hope” is the ideal philosophical doctrine for a party determined to dump its old constituents and chart a brave new course in a marketized world. As a slogan, “hope” is vague and ethereal—as opposed to former, more earthly Democratic concepts like “shared prosperity” and “equal rights for all”—but perhaps that is what makes it the consummate brand identity for a party that so often triangulates away the concerns of its rank and file.

Free Market Groups: The Invisible Hand in the Hobby Lobby Case

Academia Under the Influence

Sunday, 23 March 2014 00:00  
By Eleanor J Bader, Truthout | Book Review 

While we may tend to romanticize universities as bastions of free thought and intellectual rigor, Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira's new book, The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent, demonstrates their subjection to the same ideological underpinnings as the general body politic.
The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent, Edited by Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira University of Minnesota Press, 400 pages, $29.95.
For the past 10 years, I've taught English at a large, public community college in Brooklyn, New York. Most of my students are the first in their families to attend a university - and while some are disaffected, the majority are engaged and eager, hopeful that the promise of a higher education will open doors and provide them with a stable future. They're also largely immigrants, and it is not uncommon for 28 students from 20 countries to find themselves sitting side-by-side in a classroom, arguing and debating about the meaning of a particular text.

But if it sounds idyllic, don't worry - it's not. As tuition increases, students are often forced to take leaves of absence, causing a program that might be completed in two years to stretch into five or six. Not surprisingly, some students get discouraged and vanish. Others attempt to juggle full-time work with evening or weekend classes, only to eventually learn that an associate's degree is far less useful than they had initially imagined. Even more troubling, as their exhaustion mounts, few are able to muster the energy to protest soaring fees or inadequate financial aid packages. And my school is not unique.

Revealed: Apple and Google’s wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies, over one million employees

By Mark Ames
On March 22, 2014

Back in January, I wrote about “The Techtopus” — an illegal agreement between seven tech giants, including Apple, Google, and Intel, to suppress wages for tens of thousands of tech employees. The agreement prompted a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a settlement in which the companies agreed to curb their restricting hiring deals. The same companies were then hit with a civil suit by employees affected by the agreements.

This week, as the final summary judgement for the resulting class action suit looms, and several of the companies mentioned (Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm) scramble to settle out of court, Pando has obtained court documents (embedded below) which show shocking evidence of a much larger conspiracy, reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.

Did Hyman Minsky find the secret behind financial crashes?

American economist Hyman Minsky, who died in 1996, grew up during the Great Depression, an event which shaped his views and set him on a crusade to explain how it happened and how a repeat could be prevented, writes Duncan Weldon.

Minsky spent his life on the margins of economics but his ideas suddenly gained currency with the 2007-08 financial crisis. To many, it seemed to offer one of the most plausible accounts of why it had happened.

His long out-of-print books were suddenly in high demand with copies changing hands for hundreds of dollars - not bad for densely written tomes with titles like Stabilizing an Unstable Economy.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Black Pathology and the Closing of the Progressive Mind

How Jonathan Chait and other Obama-era liberals misunderstand the role of white supremacy in America's history and present

Among opinion writers, Jonathan Chait is outranked in my esteem only by Hendrik Hertzberg. This lovely takedown of Robert Johnson is a classic of the genre, one I studied incessantly when I was sharpening my own sword. The sharpening never ends. With that in mind, it is a pleasure to engage Chait in the discussion over President Obama, racism, culture, and personal responsibility. It's good to debate a writer of such clarity—even when that clarity has failed him.

On y va.

Chait argues that I've conflated Paul Ryan's view of black poverty with Barack Obama's. He is correct. I should have spent more time disentangling these two notions, and illuminating their common roots—the notion that black culture is part of the problem. I have tried to do this disentangling in the past. I am sorry I did not do it in this instance and will attempt to do so now.

Paul Krugman: America's Taxation Tradition

As inequality has become an increasingly prominent issue in American discourse, there has been furious pushback from the right. Some conservatives argue that focusing on inequality is unwise, that taxing high incomes will cripple economic growth. Some argue that it’s unfair, that people should be allowed to keep what they earn. And some argue that it’s un-American — that we’ve always celebrated
those who achieve wealth, and that it violates our national tradition to suggest that some people control too large a share of the wealth.

And they’re right. No true American would say this: “The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” and follow that statement with a call for “a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes ... increasing rapidly in
amount with the size of the estate.”

US University Science: The Shopping Mall Model

Posted on March 23, 2014 by Lambert Strether

Lambert here: The comparison is hardly fair to shopping malls. Many retail positions pay just as well or better than adjunct professorships.

By Paula Stephan, Professor of Economics at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University; Research Associate, NBER. Originally published at VoxEU.

Universities have relied heavily on federal funds for research for many years. Yet, since 2005, federal funds have been flat in real terms, with the exception of funds received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More importantly, the hope for a substantial increase in federal funds is dim. At the same time, public research institutions such as the University of California Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin, face the added challenge that funds from state governments for higher education have been flat or have declined in recent years and are likely to remain low.

The economic rationale for governments to invest in university research was laid out more than 60 years ago by Kenneth Arrow (1962) and Richard Nelson (1959). It rests on the understanding that knowledge has properties of what economists call a public good in the sense that once research findings are made public it is difficult to exclude others from their use, and that research findings are not depleted when shared. Economists have gone to considerable lengths to show that, if left to the private sector, society would underinvest in public goods. An additional rationale is that research, especially basic research, is inherently risky and society has a tendency to underinvest in risky research without government support (Arrow 1962). Last but not least is the role that research plays in economic growth(Romer 1990).

Paul Krugman: The Timidity Trap

There don’t seem to be any major economic crises underway right this moment, and policy makers in many places are patting themselves on the back. In Europe, for example, they’re crowing about Spain’s recovery: the country seems set to grow at least twice as fast this year as previously forecast.

Unfortunately, that means growth of 1 percent, versus 0.5 percent, in a deeply depressed economy with 55 percent youth unemployment. The fact that this can be considered good news just goes to show how accustomed we’ve grown to terrible economic conditions. We’re doing worse than anyone could have imagined a few years ago, yet people seem increasingly to be accepting this miserable situation as the new normal.

Robert Strauss's Watergate Secret

Special Report: Robert Strauss, who died Wednesday, was a Democratic powerbroker who thrived in the age of Nixon, Reagan and Bush-41. But an enduring Watergate mystery is whether Strauss earned his GOP spurs by secretly helping the Republicans in the spy scandal, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Longtime Washington powerbroker Robert Strauss, who died Wednesday at the age of 95, took to the grave the answer to one of the most provocative Watergate mysteries, whether he was, in effect, a Republican mole serving in the highest ranks of the Democratic Party.

In his later years, Strauss rebuffed my requests for an interview on this topic, but it never seemed likely that he would tell the full truth anyway, answering questions about whether his close collaboration with senior Republicans in the early 1970s was just personal or whether he was privately helping them undermine Democratic election prospects in 1972 and then trying to shut down the Watergate investigation in 1973-74.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

U.S. Student Debt Exceeds $1 Trillion as Delinquency Rate Increases to as High as One Third

By Jodie Gummow

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Quarterly Report [4], student loans are higher than credit cards, mortgages and auto loans with 11.5 percent of student loan balances 90 or more days in default.

The outstanding student loan balances increase represents an increase of $114 billion for 2013.  What’s more, a closer inspection of the figures released from the report reveals a much more gloomier economic picture than first realized.  According to [5], that 11.5 percent figure is really closer to 23 percent because only about half of the overall debt is actually amortizing.

Sudden Deaths of JPMorgan Workers Continue

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 19, 2014

Kenneth Bellando, age 28, was found outside his East Side apartment building on March 12 in what the New York Post is calling “an apparent suicide” despite an ongoing police investigation into the matter. The building from which Bellando allegedly jumped was only six stories – by no means ensuring that death would result – providing the police with an additional reason to investigate for foul play.

The young Bellando, who had previously worked for JPMorgan Chase himself, was the brother of John Bellando, who was named in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations’ report on how JPMorgan had hid losses and lied to regulators in the London Whale derivatives trading debacle that resulted in losses of at least $6.2 billion. Congressional outrage was heightened by the fact that JPMorgan was gambling in London in high risk and illiquid derivatives using deposits from its FDIC insured bank, not with its own capital.

Georgia Activists Confront GOP Rejection of Medicaid as Moral Mondays Spread Across South

By Amy Goodman, Juan González

The Dead Are Wealthier Than the Living: Capital in the 21st Century

• March 20, 2014 • 11:41 AM

Patrimonial capitalism—and the landed or urban gentry living off of inherited wealth—was dealt a mortal blow by the Great Depression and World Wars. But it’s making a comeback, and the only way to stop it might be a worldwide tax on capital.

In Honoré de Balzac’s 1835 novel Père Goriot, a cynical observer of Parisian society under the reign of Louis-Philippe extends some career advice to a penniless young nobleman:
The Baron de Rastignac thinks of becoming an advocate, does he? There’s a nice prospect for you! Ten years of drudgery straight away. You are obliged to live at the rate of a thousand francs a month; you must have a library of law books, live in chambers, go into society, go down on your knees to ask a solicitor for briefs, lick the dust off the floor of the Palais de Justice. If this kind of business led to anything, I should not say no; but just give me the names of five advocates here in Paris who by the time that they are fifty are making fifty thousand francs a year! Bah! I would sooner turn pirate on the high seas than have my soul shrivel up inside me like that. How will you find the capital? There is but one way, marry a woman who has money.
It was much the same, the French economist Thomas Piketty tells us in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, two decades earlier in Jane Austen’s rural England, and it remained so five decades later on Henry James’ Washington Square. To belong to the landed or urban gentry of the 18th and 19th centuries—that is, to possess “books or musical instruments or jewelry or ball gowns”—you needed at least 20 to 30 times the income of the average person, and the most lucrative professions paid only half that. You needed capital, typically in the form of land. And you needed a lot of it—much more than could typically be amassed in the course of one lifetime. Consequently, “society” (i.e., the rich) consisted almost entirely of rentiers living off inherited wealth. It was much more true in Europe than in the United States, but it was true up to a point here, too, especially in the antebellum South.

Free Money for Everyone

A wacky-sounding idea with surprisingly conservative roots may be our best hope for escaping endless, grinding economic stagnation.

By Ryan Cooper

How would you like to get $2,000 in free money today, fresh off the government printing presses? And what if I told you it wouldn’t just be a nice windfall for you and your friends and family, but that we’d do it for all Americans on an ongoing basis, and that doing so would solve our crippling problem of mass unemployment?

I know what you’re thinking: it would be crazy. Either it would be a fast track to crippling inflation or it’s some Republican satire of an ultra-liberal government handout program. But it is not quite as radical as it sounds. The key idea behind such a program has a longstanding, bipartisan economic pedigree. John Stuart Mill argued in 1829 that mass unemployment was caused by “a deficiency of the circulating medium” relative to other commodities. John Maynard Keynes used the idea in his 1936 book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, to lampoon the inherent silliness of gold mining, suggesting that old coal mines could be filled up with bottles full of banknotes, buried over with trash, then left “to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again.” Milton Friedman suggested that monetary policy could never fail to cure mass unemployment, because as a last resort the central bank could just drop cash out of helicopters—an enticing analogy that former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke borrowed in a 2002 speech, earning himself the persistent nickname of “Helicopter Ben.”

Piketty’s Triumph

Three expert takes on Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty's data-driven magnum opus on inequality.

In the 1990s, two young French economists then affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, began the first rigorous effort to gather facts on income inequality in developed countries going back decades. In the wake of the 2007 financial crash, fundamental questions about the economy that had long been ignored again garnered attention. Piketty and Saez’s research stood ready with data showing that elites in developed countries had, in recent years, grown far wealthier relative to the general population than most economists had suspected. By the past decade, according to Piketty and Saez, inequality had returned to levels nearing those of the early 20th century.
Last fall, Piketty published his magnum opus, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, in France. The book seeks to model the history, recent trends, and back-to-the-19th-century future of capitalism. The American Prospect asked experts and scholars in the field of inequality to weigh in on Piketty’s argument and potential impact for policymaking on our shores.

Jacob S. Hacker, director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale, and Paul Pierson, the John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley, are the co-authors most recently of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. Heather Boushey is the executive director and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Branko Milanovic is a visiting presidential professor at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, a visiting senior scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center, and the author of The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality.

In 1975, the CIA Director Told Congress That Enemies of America Could Destroy the CIA with Freedom of Information Act Requests

In mid-1970s, feminist and peace movement activist Congresswoman Bella Abzug tore through the intel world, fearlessly taking on the CIA and the NSA for surveilling Americans. So I’ve been reading some of her hearings, and it turns out that the dynamics of the intelligence world (in this case the CIA) and its relationship with Congress and the public haven’t changed at all. Today, journalist Jason Leopold is nicknamed a ‘FOIA terrorist’ by a ‘certain government agency’ because he files so many requests so effectively, and sues when they deny him the things to which he is entitled.

This was going on in the 1970s, right after FOIA was amended to allow requests to the intel community. Bella Abzug was one member who helped make that happen, with hearings and legislative initiatives to force various agencies to reveal who they were surveilling.

Thomas Frank: There is no meritocracy....

The game is rigged: We elected Obama to hold the 1 percent accountable. So why are they still running everything? 

The big news after President Obama’s State of the Union address in January was that he didn’t really talk about the issues of inequality that everyone expected him to talk about. Instead, he shifted the “conversation,” as we call it, toward the subject of opportunity. He shied away from the extremely disturbing fact that when you work these days only your boss prospers, and brought us back to the infinitely less disturbing fact that sometimes poor people do get ahead despite it all. In a clever oratorical maneuver, Obama illustrated this comforting idea by referencing the success stories of both himself—“the son of a single mom”—and his arch-foe, Republican House Speaker John Boehner—“the son of a barkeep.” He spoke of building “new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” a phrase that has become a trademark for his administration.

The problem, as Obama summed it up, is that Americans have ceased to believe they can rise from the ranks. “Opportunity is who we are,” he said. “And the defining project of our generation must be to restore that promise.”

Drones will cause an upheaval of society like we haven’t seen in 700 years

By Noah Smith |  March 11, 2014

The human race is on the brink of momentous and dire change. It is a change that potentially smashes our institutions and warps our society beyond recognition. It is also a change to which almost no one is paying attention. I’m talking about the coming obsolescence of the gun-wielding human infantryman as a weapon of war. Or to put it another way: the end of the Age of the Gun.

You may not even realize you have been, indeed, living in the Age of the Gun because it’s been centuries since that age began. But imagine yourself back in 1400. In that century (and the 10 centuries before it), the battlefield was ruled not by the infantryman, but by the horse archer—a warrior-nobleman who had spent his whole life training in the ways of war. Imagine that guy’s surprise when he was shot off his horse by a poor no-count farmer armed with a long metal tube and just two weeks’ worth of training. Just a regular guy with a gun.

The Voluntarism Fantasy

Conservatives dream of returning to a world where private charity fulfilled all public needs. But that world never existed—and we’re better for it.

Ideology is as much about understanding the past as shaping the future. And conservatives tell themselves a story, a fairy tale really, about the past, about the way the world was and can be again under Republican policies. This story is about the way people were able to insure themselves against the risks inherent in modern life. Back before the Great Society, before the New Deal, and even before the Progressive Era, things were better. Before government took on the role of providing social insurance, individuals and private charity did everything needed to insure people against the hardships of life; given the chance, they could do it again.

This vision has always been implicit in the conservative ascendancy. It existed in the 1980s, when President Reagan announced, “The size of the federal budget is not an appropriate barometer of social conscience or charitable concern,” and called for voluntarism to fill in the yawning gaps in the social safety net. It was made explicit in the 1990s, notably through Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion, a treatise hailed by the likes of Newt Gingrich and William Bennett, which argued that a purely private nineteenth-century system of charitable and voluntary organizations did a better job providing for the common good than the twentieth-century welfare state. This idea is also the basis of Paul Ryan’s budget, which seeks to devolve and shrink the federal government at a rapid pace, lest the safety net turn “into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.” It’s what Utah Senator Mike Lee references when he says that the “alternative to big government is not small government” but instead “a voluntary civil society.” As conservatives face the possibility of a permanent Democratic majority fueled by changing demographics, they understand that time is running out on their cherished project to dismantle the federal welfare state.

Pensiongate? Christie Campaign Donors Won Huge Contracts

Banks Seek To Sway Critical GAO Report

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 09:51 
By Alison Fitzgerald, The Center for Public Integrity | Report 

Lobbyists are working hard to get ahead of a critically important report by the government’s internal watchdog that may determine how banks are regulated in the future.

The Government Accountability Office was asked by Congress to determine whether the nation’s largest banks are able to borrow money at lower rates than smaller institutions because of the view that the government will bail out the behemoths or pay off their creditors in a crisis. The study, the second of two related reports, is due out later this year.

New Study Shows Dangers of Trade Agreements that Help Corporations Sue Governments

Posted on by David Dayen
By Robin Broad, a Professor of International Development at the School of International Service, American University, and John Cavanagh. Originally published at Triple Crisis

As the Obama administration negotiates new trade agreements with European and Pacific nations, a battle has emerged over the agreements’ egregious rules that grant giant corporations unreasonable powers to subvert democracy. These rules, dubbed “investor rights” by the corporations, allow firms to sue governments over actions—including public interest regulations—that reduce the value of their investments.

Oxfam, the Institute for Policy Studies, and four other non-profits are releasing a new study that explains why these rules are so dangerous to democracy and the environment. We are among the co-authors of this study, titled “Debunking Eight Falsehoods by Pacific Rim Mining/OceanaGold in El Salvador.” The report offers a powerful case study of everything that is wrong with this corporate assault on democracy.

Henry Giroux | Beyond Neoliberal Miseducation

As universities turn toward corporate management models, they increasingly use and exploit cheap faculty labor while expanding the ranks of their managerial class. Modeled after a savage neoliberal value system in which wealth and power are redistributed upward, a market-oriented class of managers largely has taken over the governing structures of most institutions of higher education in the United States. As Debra Leigh Scott points out, "administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country."1 There is more at stake here than metrics. Benjamin Ginsberg views this shift in governance as the rise of what he calls ominously the "the all administrative university," noting that it does not bode well for any notion of higher education as a democratic public sphere.2

More evil than genius? How iPad and Google Glass makers are secretly scamming America

We already knew Google and Facebook were resourceful. But their new scheme to rip off the U.S. Treasury is chilling

David Dayen

To really understand the extent of Google and Apple’s innovative zeal, you may want to look past their groundbreaking products – and more at their tax avoidance strategies. In a new scheme that defies belief, some of the nation’s top tech giants are managing to evade taxation on money by parking it overseas – and then somehow taking government payments on it.

Though the rest of the business sector had a head start, tech firms have begun to lobby Washington with more persistence over the past few years; the top 10 spent more than $61 million in 2013. The more hopeful among us might believe this shift could possibly produce more beneficial results for the public. (After all, Google’s motto is “don’t be evil,” right?)

But while it’s true that, in certain discrete areas, tech lobbying has yielded positive results — like when companies aided grass-roots efforts to stop Internet censorship legislation sought by Hollywood — in the vast majority of cases, Silicon Valley wants what the rest of our multinational conglomerates want: low taxes and cheap labor. And they’ve been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that.

Nomi Prins: The Inevitability of Income Inequality

There’s been a lot of discussion about the historically high levels of income and wealth inequality lately—mostly from people on the shorter end of that stick—with good reason: There’s no end in sight.

In his new book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” economist Thomas Piketty argues that worsening inequality is inevitable in a mature capitalist system, based on his analysis of 200 years of data. But inequality isn’t just an evolving condition like a crippling allergy that comes and goes, or just grows, enumerated by horrifying statistics. Nor is it just the result of a capitalist-utopian idea of free markets in which everyone gets a fair shot armed with equal information (which simply don’t exist in the real world, where markets are routinely gamed by the biggest players). Inequality is endemic to the core structure of an America that operates more as a plutocracy than a democracy. It is an inherent result of the consolidation of a substantial amount of both financial power and political influence in the hands of a few families.

In my upcoming book, “All the Presidents’ Bankers,” I trace the lineage of the banking and political families and their associates who have had the most combined influence on American policy. Inequality of income or wealth is a byproduct of the predisposition and genealogy of this coterie of America’s power elite. True, being born into wealth means having a greater chance of accumulating more of it—but take it a step further. Expanding on the adage of “it takes money to make money,” we get a much better idea of why inequality is so rampant: Because aside from income and wealth issues, it takes power to keep power.

New Report: Fortune 100 Companies Have Received a Whopping $1.2 Trillion in Corporate Welfare Recently

By Aaron Cantú

Until now.

A new venture called Open the Books, based in Illinois, was founded with a mission to bring transparency to how the federal budget is spent. And what they found is shocking: between 2000 and 2012, the top Fortune 100 companies received $1.2 trillion from the government. That doesn't include all the billions of dollars doled out to housing, auto and banking enterprises in 2008-2009, nor does it include ethanol subsidies to agribusiness or tax breaks for wind turbine makers.

Beware Of The “Sneak Laws”

Dave Johnson

One way the corporate/plutocrat/conservative agenda gets foisted on us is through what I call “sneak laws.” These are laws that sneak through state legislatures and the Congress before We the People get a chance to learn about them and organize opposition. (Read to the end to learn about a monster of a sneak law sneaking through the Congress that could cost our government as much as $700 billion now and tens to hundreds of billions a year from now on.)

There are tons of federal, state and local sneak laws written to benefit a few key corporations or billionaires. These sneak laws limit competition, grant monopolies, provide subsidies, give (sometimes huge) tax breaks, grant special waivers from laws and regulations, prohibit consumers from fighting back when harmed … you name it. But they never, ever help regular We the People.

Dean Baker: Money in Hyping the Generational War Story

At the same time that we are seeing growing support for proposals to increase Social Security benefits it appears that we are witnessing another set of calls for generational warfare. The argument of the generational warriors is that the Social Security and Medicare benefits received by our parents and grandparents pose a threat to the living standards of our children and grandchildren.

The generational warfare argument may not make much sense, but many people with money stand behind it. Therefore we are likely to hear it frequently in the months ahead.

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'?

Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The US Is Abandoning Democracy, Becoming an Aristocracy Instead


Each country is either an aristocracy, ruled by hereditary wealth and status; or else a democracy, ruled by the public or "demos" (without hereditary wealth or status being a major factor deciding a person's success).

It's either one, or the other -- or somewhere between those two political poles.

The American Revolution was waged against aristocracy (which was the longstanding system), who happened to consist of British aristocrats. The American Revolutionists fought to establish a democracy instead. They did this, though democracy had never before existed (except in very limited form, in very small places, such as ancient Athens, and even there only briefly).

Joseph E. Stiglitz: On the Wrong Side of Globalization

Trade agreements are a subject that can cause the eyes to glaze over, but we should all be paying attention. Right now, there are trade proposals in the works that threaten to put most Americans on the wrong side of globalization.

The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party, though you wouldn’t know it from President Obama’s rhetoric. In his State of the Union address, for example, he blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.” Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.

Billionaires... First They Came for the Economy

Monday, 17 March 2014 15:45
By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

First the oligarchs came for our economy, and we said nothing.

Then they came for our government, and again, we said nothing.

Now, they've come for science, and we're not saying a word.

Thanks to Republican-backed austerity measures, our nation's scientific infrastructure has been hit with devastating budget cuts.

All across America, research labs are shutting their doors, scientists are joining unemployment lines, and potentially life-saving drug trials and research projects are being put on hiatus.

12 Facts You Need to Know About Our Retirement Crisis as the Battle Over Social Security Is Far From Over

By Steven Rosenfeld

Articles such this detailed retelling [5] from In These Timesproclaim that Social Security was "saved,” when in fact, the formula for future Social Security benefits is unchanged, and is still insufficient for the retiring baby boom generation.

Meanwhile, glee over the White House’s reversal eclipses the harsh truth that Obama’s proposed 2015 budget would raise [6] out-of-pocket costs for 50 million seniors—saving the government $60 billion—starting in 2018 by increasing Medicare deductibles, co-pays and premiums, and adding a surcharge if people buy supplemental insurance coverage.

Ralph Nader: What A Destructive Wall Street Owes Young Americans

Wall Street’s big banks and their financial networks that collapsed the U.S. economy in 2008-2009, were saved with huge bailouts by the taxpayers, but these Wall Street Gamblers are still paid huge money and are again creeping toward reckless misbehavior. Their corporate crime wave strip-mined the economy for young workers, threw them on the unemployment rolls and helped make possible a low-wage economy that is draining away their ability to afford basic housing, goods, and services.

Meanwhile, Wall Street is declaring huge bonuses for their executive plutocrats, none of whom have been prosecuted and sent to jail for these systemic devastations of other peoples’ money, the looting of pensions and destruction of jobs.

Ukraine is About Oil. So Was World War I

by Robert Freeman

Ukraine is a lot more portentous than it appears. It is fundamentally about the play for Persian Gulf oil. So was World War I. The danger lies in the chance of runaway escalation, just like World War I.

Let’s put Ukraine into a global strategic context.

The oil is running out. God isn’t making any more dinosaurs and melting them into the earth’s crust. Instead, as developing world countries aspire to first-world living standards, the draw-down on the world’s finite supply of oil is accelerating. The rate at which known reserves are being depleted is four times that at which new oil is being discovered. That’s why oil cost $26 a barrel in 2001, but $105 today. It’s supply and demand.

Neocons Have Weathered the Storm

March 14, 2014

Exclusive: Official Washington’s bipartisan hysteria over Ukraine and Crimea is evidence that the neocons not only weathered the public fury over the Iraq War but are now back shaping U.S. geopolitical strategies, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

By the middle of last decade, the storm clouds were building over the neocons: their “regime change” in Iraq was a disaster; President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech was a running joke; news articles were appearing about their “dark side” behavior in the “war on terror”; and the public was tired of the blood and treasure being wasted.

You might have expected that the neocons would have been banished to the farthest reaches of U.S. policymaking, so far away that they would never be heard from again. However, instead of disappearing, the neocons have proved their staying power, now reemerging as the architects of the U.S. strategy toward Ukraine.

Disenfranchised: Why Are Americans Still Buying Into the Franchise Dream?

• March 04, 2014 • 6:00 AM

Bhupinder “Bob” Baber bought two Quiznos franchises in Long Beach, California, in 1998 and 1999. His investment totaled $500,000, and Baber’s wife, Ratty, quit her job to work at the restaurants for no pay. The Babers did this because, as Bob would later recall, he “trusted in Quiznos.” But, as he soon found out, being a franchisee can be a very swift and painful way to lose a lot of money.

Over the past year, thousands of fast-food workers have staged protests and rallies for a higher hourly wage. As they see it, big corporations like McDonald’s and Domino’s can well afford to pay workers more. But the vast majority of these workers don’t work for these giants. They work for people like Bob Baber. Franchisees don’t enjoy the market powers and economies of scale of their parent companies. Rather, they run small businesses with narrow profit margins, high failure rates, and plenty of anti-corporate grievances of their own. Anyone who wants to help immiserated fast-food workers, in other words, also needs to spare a few thoughts for their immiserated bosses. That means reforming the deeply troublesome franchise system.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain

Telecoms take HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS for national broadband, but don't want to deliver

by kos

I want one of these deals:

After making a big, bold promise to wire every corner of America, the telecom giants are running away from their vow to provide nationwide broadband service by 2020. For almost 20 years, AT&T, Verizon and the other big players have collected hundreds of billions of dollars through rate increases and surcharges to finance that ambitious plan, but after wiring the high-density big cities, they now say it's too expensive to connect the rest of the country. But they'd like to keep all that money they banked for the project.
It's awesome to get paid for something you decide you don't want to do, right?

C'mon America...let's keep the lights on

Submitted by Thom Hartmann A... on 13. March 2014 - 12:07

It’s time for America to leave the 19th century behind, and keep the lights on. Last night, the U.S. Capitol building and other Washington, D.C. landmarks went dark, as powerful wind gusts of up to 55 MPH knocked out power for thousands of people in the D.C. area. In fact, as of 10 PM last night, around 5,000 people were in the dark in the D.C. metropolitan area, for what was a very, very cold night.

While mass power outages in and around our nation’s capital are unusual, they’re becoming more frequent, and they’re a sign of this nation’s aging electrical infrastructure, which is stuck in the 19th century. We're still using the model of giant, centralized power stations that then distribute electricity over long distances to areas as large as states and blocks of states. This is bad for a number of reasons.

10 Things Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Protection Agency Has Done for You

The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is already shielding Americans from shady dealings by mortgage lenders, student loan servicers, and credit card companies.

—By Erika Eichelberger  |  Fri Mar. 14, 2014 3:00 AM GMT

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the watchdog agency conceived of and established by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the wake of the financial crisis, had a hard time getting on its feet. The GOP tried everything it could to hobble the bureau, but to no avail. Over the past couple of years, the CFPB has issued dozens of protections shielding consumers from shady practices by mortgage lenders, student loan servicers, and credit card companies.

Paul Krugman: Did Texas Really Experience an Economic Miracle?

Philip Longman, a senior editor at Washington Monthly magazine, wrote a very good article in the latest edition that debunks the hype about the Texas economy. Things I didn't know included the fact that net inward migration by native-born Americans is actually quite small.

But I wanted to follow up on one particular point: the role of oil and gas in recent years. In his article, Mr. Longman concedes that these industries directly account for a fairly small share of the economy even in Texas, but argues that their rapid growth, combined with multiplier effects, makes them a much bigger story when it comes to Texas growth.

Wells Fargo made up on-demand foreclosure papers plan: court filing charges

By Catherine Curan

Wells Fargo, the nation’s biggest mortgage servicer, appears to have set up detailed internal procedures to fabricate foreclosure papers on demand, according to allegations in papers filed Tuesday in a New York federal court.

In a filing in New York’s Southern District in White Plains for a local homeowner in bankruptcy, attorney Linda Tirelli described a 150-page Wells Fargo Foreclosure Attorney Procedures Manual created November 9, 2011 and updated February 24, 2012. According to court papers, the Manual details “a procedure for processing [mortgage] notes without endorsements and obtaining endorsements and allonges.”

Gaius Publius: We could solve unemployment immediately if we wanted to. Read 2 “sensible” proposals.

We don’t need to regulate prices with the pain of unemployment. There are other ways.

We wrote recently about economic systems that inflict pain, our prime example being classic “free market” economics (as it existed before FDR) and also neoliberalism (as it exists today, in post-FDR world). That piece is here:

Neoliberalism, “just deserts” and the post–climate crisis economy

A number of people, including Paul Krugman, have noted that we may well be entering a world, certainly in the U.S., where there may not be enough good jobs to go around, either because of technical innovation or because of job export by the already-wealthy, likely both. Does that mean that people should be consigned to their fate, to unemployment, simply to regulate prices and inflation?

David Dayen: This Is the Fed's Most Brazen and Least Known Handout to Private Banks

Rarely does a day go by when some House Republican doesn’t demand an end to Federal Reserve funding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). But you will never hear about the Fed’s direct subsidy to private banks that costs over three times as much as the total CFPB budget.

The subsidy comes in the form of a 6 percent dividend, paid on stock that over 2,900 banks purchase to participate in the Federal Reserve system. Very few places where ordinary Americans park their money offer such a risk-free benefit. In 2012 (the last year with available data), the Fed gave away $1.637 billion in dividends to banks, tax-free in the majority of cases. And the Fed has been doing this for the last 100 years. It’s one of the many unknown ways the Fed extends special benefits to Wall Street.

How a Mysterious Redacted Document Could Affect Money in Politics

Why have FEC lawyers locked away a potentially crucial bit of evidence that campaigns could use to craft election strategy?

By Shane Goldmacher

The Federal Election Commission was deadlocked, and no one was surprised. Democrats had wanted to crack down; Republicans didn't. No matter that it could have been among the most important campaign finance decisions in years. No matter that the agency's general counsel had recommended action. Divided equally and hopelessly by ideology, the six commissioners were at a stalemate.

It was all perfectly ordinary for this dysfunctional agency. All except for footnote 111.

How Reagan Enforced US Hypocrisy

March 11, 2014

Exclusive: The mainstream U.S. news media has so fully bought into the U.S. government’s narrative on Ukraine that almost no one sees the layers of hypocrisy, an achievement in “group think” that dates back to Ronald Reagan’s war against “moral equivalence,” writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Official Washington’s hearty disdain for anyone who cites U.S. hypocrisy toward the Ukraine crisis can be traced back to a propaganda strategy hatched by the Reagan administration in 1984, dismissing any comparisons between U.S. and Soviet behavior as unacceptable expressions of “moral equivalence.”

This “moral equivalence” concern stemmed, in part, from the prior decade’s disclosures of U.S. government misconduct – the Vietnam War, CIA-sponsored coups and other intelligence abuses at home and abroad. In that climate of heightened skepticism, U.S. journalists felt it was their job to show some skepticism and hold U.S. officials accountable for their behavior.

How a Court Secretly Evolved, Extending U.S. Spies’ Reach