Thursday, January 24, 2008

DEFINE 'GRAPPLE.' DEFINE 'STIMULUS.' WHAT THE HELL, DEFINE 'WHITE HOUSE!'

Negotiators Grappling With Stimulus Plan White House, Hill Strive to Maintain Bipartisanship

By Jonathan Weisman and Peter Baker Washington Post Staff Writers Thursday, January 24, 2008; A03

The White House and congressional leaders struggled yesterday to preserve their newfound alliance on the economy in the face of revolts in both parties over the shape of a potential stimulus package and of debates over issues such as health care and warrantless surveillance.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) neared agreement last night on a tentative plan aimed at reinvigorating a battered economy. Pelosi met last night with committee chairmen while Paulson was running the tentative agreement by the White House ahead of what could be a final meeting this morning.

--read entire article--

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What a hoot.

Congressional lawbreakers and the pResident in the Ovalist of offices are all standing around the flattened body of the U.S. economy, run down like an errant rabbit by the 16-wheeler fraud that came roaring out of both parties.

Now they're trying not to look silly by applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. But it's hard not to giggle as Bush oratory fails once again to pronounce the key words correctly (fraud, inflate, expectation, conspiracy) while Mike Pence, the otherwise unknown Republican rep from Indiana chimes in with

"One year into a liberal Democrat majority in Congress, surprise, surprise, the economy is struggling," he said. "You don't need to apply liberal principles and policies on an economic slowdown that is being driven by liberal policies on Capitol Hill."

Sure, Mike.

If it were not so deadly serious, the whole scene would make high comedy. We are close to '29 style meltdown and now all the co-conspirators who have been cooking the books for three decades are about to soil their pants.

Capitalism worked OK until all that jazz about 'free markets' that were a code for free pricing and captive labor.

  • Supply and demand got massaged into consume and charge.
  • Along the way, business integrity got cut into quarters and sold off to the highest bidder as dividends.
  • Quality as a goal became subsumed by price as a mantra.
  • Excellence only existed as a model, from which we extracted, extruded, squeezed and morphed something we termed 'cool' and 'flashy,' because cool and flashy are expendable and need replacement like toothpaste.
  • The big money is in products that look like big money.
Meanwhile, America got poorer. In the '70s, realizing that America was too poor to buy the crap that was more profitable than quality, banks gave everyone credit cards. There were losses giving credit to everyone, but the losses were written off because how can you miss when you loan money at 18%? What was once called usury and brought a jail-term for mafia-types was now called credit and brought enormous banking profit. Brought it from nowhere. Brought it from the thin air of raking-off borrowers. Bingo. In one historic (some would say hysteric) move, America morphed from a lender-nation to a borrower-nation. The Marshall Plan society was dead and the 'consumer society' was born. Its offspring found new and inventive ways to squeeze every last drop of spendable income from America's ravaged workers. No money down, no payments until June. Five, six, seven credit cards--all of them maxed. In three short decades, following Milton Friedman's off-shoring of jobs at a living wage, America had the last vestiges of its wealth wrung out. The term 'breadwinner' went down the sewer, as it took at least two breadwinners, working several jobs to bring home half a loaf. What to do, when the music stopped? Where could lenders lend at usury rates when all the disposable income was disposed? The house in the Hamptons was at risk.
The answer was to write a new song and the lyrics were all about happy days being here again for those who lived under bridges or with their parents or a friend's couch.
Having extracted all the money from those who still had (or could earn) money, some bright hedge-fund guy invented a new paradigm over cocktails after work. It no doubt began as a joke, scribbled out on a napkin. How to squeeze money where there is none. But the American wage-earner had become a joke by then and the silly idea got legs. We will invent a new lending vehicle (a vehicle is what you use to drive off with someone else's money). Then get this--this is the cool part--we name it a sub-prime mortgage, slick it up for sale to the guy on a friend's couch or to the desperate home-wanters who we will make into home-owners (for a day). The Queen for a Day model. Everyone's gonna love it! Commissions for mortgage salesmen, fees for mortgage bankers, investment bankers, bond rating companies and hedge funds; big fees, enormous fees--all of them coming from the final investor-package (which we slide off as derivatives).
Derivative (noun) A compound obtained from, or regarded as derived from, another compound. Also, A financial instrument whose value is based on another security, but I prefer the first.
We all get together to shine this baby up, make it glisten like Paris Hilton's lip-gloss. Is it crooked? Sure. Is fraud involved? Hey, baby, a little but you gotta stay on the edge to ride the wave. Can anyone trace this stuff? Probably not by the time we peddle it internationally. Trillions can be made, sweetheart. It's a new mousetrap for the same old tired mouse. Which is the blame-game Mike Pence hopes to pin on a year-old Democratic majority in the Congress, to send the dogs off on a false-scent. The only presidential candidate who even comes close to telling this story like it is, is John Edwards and John Edwards is running so far behind the pack that he'll be gone from the scene in a month. And business as usual can get back to business as usual. Fraud is perhaps the only bi-partisan practice left to our Congress.


* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Business and Economy, check out Opinion-Columns.com