The effort to audit the Fed got a big boost last night when Senator Bernie Sanders reached an agreement with Chris Dodd, the chair of the banking committee. Under the deal, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would undertake a full audit of the special facilities created by the Fed since December of 2007. GAO would make the findings from its audit available to the Congressional leadership. It would also make most of the details of the Fed's transactions available to the public.
To cope with the economic crisis, the Fed created 13 different special lending facilities. At their peak last year, these facilities had lent out more than $2 trillion. The Fed has only disclosed aggregate data about these facilities, telling us how much each one lent out month by month. It has refused to disclose any information about the specific loans and beneficiaries. This means that we have no way of knowing how much Citigroup, Goldman Sachs or anyone else benefited from these facilities.
Under the terms of the deal, by December 1 of this year the Fed will have posted on its website all the loans that were part of these facilities. Any interested journalist, academic, blogger or generic snoop can read through the data and find exactly how much money Goldman Sachs got, at what interest rate, with what collateral and when they paid it back. This is a big victory.
The Fed had previously argued that disclosing this information would compromise its independence. It complained that the having their borrowings made public would put a stigma on dealing with the Fed, so that banks and other financial companies would be reluctant to use special lending facilities in future crises.
Of course these arguments made no sense. This is why a majority of senators stood behind Sanders and why the House of Representatives attached an audit bill sponsored by representatives Ron Paul and Alan Grayson to its financial reform bill. The basic point is simple: this is our money; we have a right to know what the Fed did with it.
Sanders did make some compromises. The audit has an arbitrary cutoff date of December 2007. The special facilities date from the summer of 2007. It also only has the audit as a one-off proposition, rather than establishing GAO audits of Fed operations as an ongoing principle. The compromise also explicitly exempts open market operations - the Fed's daily buying and selling of short-term assets to control interest rates - from GAO scrutiny.
These concessions are unfortunate, the Fed is a creation of Congress and for that reason it should be subject to the same investigative procedures as any other federal agency, but they certainly are secondary compared with getting a full accounting of the money lent out through the special facilities. It is also important to note that in one very important way the Sanders compromise goes beyond the original Paul-Grayson language. Under the compromise, the information about the lending facilities will be made fully public where everyone can scrutinize it. The original bill would just have this information made available to the relevant congressional committees. They would then have to make a further decision about what information, if any, would be made public.
There has been a long ongoing battle with the Fed over its policy of excessive secrecy. Over the years, Congress has pushed back at efforts to treat the Fed as a holy temple outside of democratic control. It has made progress at holding the Fed accountable through measures like requiring the semi-annual Humphrey-Hawkins testimony by the Fed chair before Congress, the release of full transcripts of Fed open market meetings (with a 5-year lag), and now this public audit of its special facilities. There will be further battles and we have a long way to go before the Fed is as democratically accountable as it should be, but the Sanders compromise is a big step forward.
Years of conservative/corporate/corrupt Republican governance left the country on the verge of an economic meltdown. Obviously you can't put the blame on individual GOP mountebanks who cheer-led the catastrophe, irresponsible hacks like John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor. But you do have to take note when these same people who did so much to cause the disaster are the very ones obstructing President Obama from fixing it and then pouting when his remedies start working. This morning, as the new employment figures were announced, Cantor groused that "Out-of-control spending in Washington has produced a Mount Everest of debt that we are asking future generations to climb. Even if the economy added 250,000 jobs every month, it would take nearly five years to get back to full employment. Five years is too long."
John Boehner and his lemming-like followers were just as negative. While he was off golfing, Boehner's spokesperson sent out a press release dwelling on how long it's taken Obama to clean up the economy (that it took conservatives a decade to destroy):
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) responded today to the disappointing news that the nation?s unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent despite President Obama?s promise that the trillion-dollar ?stimulus? would keep unemployment below eight percent. The number of long-term unemployed-- those out of work for 27 weeks or longer-- now account for a record 46 percent of the unemployed. Boehner issued the following statement:
?A 9.9 percent unemployment rate is a harsh reminder that families and small businesses continue to ask ?where are the jobs?? Positive job growth is always welcome news, but this rising and painfully high unemployment rate is a far cry from President Obama?s promise that the trillion-dollar ?stimulus? would keep joblessness from rising above eight percent. It has not, and millions have lost their jobs while Washington Democrats continue to push job-killing policies that pile more debt onto the backs of our kids and grandkids. These misguided policies include a massive government takeover of health care, a Wall Street bailout bill, a value-added tax, a gas tax, and a government takeover of the Internet, all of which will kill jobs.
?Washington Democrats have no coherent agenda to create jobs, and no interest in doing anything but continue to spend money we don?t have on ?stimulus? programs that don?t work. Our economy will ultimately recover, but it will do so because of the hard work and entrepreneurship of the American people, not more wasteful Washington spending. Republicans have proposed better solutions to cut spending now and help put people back to work.?
?It is remarkable that serial critics like Congressman Boehner seem pained by the clear facts that our nation is making economic progress under the leadership of President Obama. Obviously the stimulus and new leadership have pulled us back from the precipice of economic disaster that some apparently wanted to continue seemingly willing to strangle the Main Street business resurgence for their own short term political ends. Apparently he thinks his becoming Speaker and a mere two heartbeats away from the Presidency trumps the well being of millions of American families positively impacted by these new economic numbers which document the continuing recovery. Cheerleading for continued economic hardship on the American people is not leadership, it is selfish continuation of a pattern of obstruction and stale attacks.?
Today?s employment report shows the strongest signs yet of healing in the labor market, as private nonfarm payrolls expanded substantially. At the same time, the rise in the unemployment rate reminds us of how far we still have to go before the economy is fully recovered.
Payroll employment increased by 290,000 in April-- the largest one month employment gain since March 2006. Of this total, 231,000 was in the private sector. Hiring related to the decennial Census contributed 66,000 to the total. The payroll employment numbers for February and March were also revised up substantially (by 53,000 and 68,000, respectively). The current numbers now show that employment has grown in each of the past four months.
The job gains were spread widely across sectors. Construction, manufacturing, professional and business services, education and health, and hospitality and leisure all added jobs. Indeed, the rise in manufacturing employment of 44,000 was the largest since August 1998. One area of weakness was state and local government, which reduced employment by 6,000. Temporary help employment grew more slowly than in previous months (+26,000), suggesting that firms may be moving to more permanent hiring. The average workweek for all employees on nonfarm payrolls increased by 1/10 of an hour and is up 3/10 of an hour since December.
In the household survey, the unemployment rate rose to 9.9 percent. This is obviously a very high rate, and reducing it must remain the fundamental focus of policy. Importantly, the rise in the unemployment rate in April was driven largely by a surge in the labor force. The labor force increased by 805,000, while employment as measured by the household survey increased by 550,000.
Muse in the MorningFleur(Click on image for larger view)Repechage... Fleur 2The muses are ancient. The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them. Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the[...]
Read The Full Article:
Here, from the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, is a splendid example of why the word "populism" -- that democratic breed which to some denotes the virtuous Everyman -- scares the hell out of me:
"[D]espite protests against Arizona?s stringent new immigration enforcement law, a majority of Americans support it, even though they say it may lead to racial profiling ... [and] overburden local and state law enforcement agencies and decrease the willingness of illegal immigrants to report crimes for fear of deportation."
All that, and for this vastly unconstitutional law there's popular -- populist -- support; in fact, a fair portion of supporters believes the law doesn't go far enough, which is to say, violate the Constitution enough.
The virtuous Everyman? The wise masses? A sublime expression of the guileless, incorruptible collectivity, those clean common folk far removed from the vile centers of insider power and thus bathed in the simple purity of republican goodness?
Those are the theoretical traits of populism. The intense ignorance surrounding the Arizona law, on the other hand, is reality -- as were the sweeping simplemindedness of the Reagan and Gingrich Revolutions; a couple of presidential terms for the stupendously shallow, maliciously destructive George W. Bush; a mind-bendingly stupid, illegal, unprovoked war of instant gratification but multigenerational harm ...
Well, you get the drift. Democracy, in its driving populist forms, at its realistic finest.
Some will protest that "the people" have been but hoodwinked, though; they've been but the innocent victims of scheming Atwaterites or Luntzianism or all other manner of monstrously predatory framing and messaging. Yet from whom do the Frank Luntzes of this nation receive their intuitions of marketing madness? Why of course, from the wise, virtuous, wholesome People.
What's more, and indeed what's worse, is that even assuming the populist masses are somehow hoodwinked with tedious regularity, that's the whole bloody point.
They are hoodwinked with tedious regularity.
The gross errors of their ways are readily revealed, which is soon followed by some modest self-correction, which is then followed, naturally, by The People's re-ushering in of the same demonic message warriors who damn near sank the nation in that last nastiest of times. It's a modified Arthur Schlesingerian cycle of two steps back, one forward, then back again and so on.
I exaggerate, of course, but only to emphasize a rather pedestrian point (as that greatest of American political historians, Richard Hofstadter, whom I'll paraphrase here, once wrote: If a point is worth stating, it's worth overstating): The soi-disant Virtuous People can be, and often are, their own worst enemies; demagogues don't so much create opportunities as they simply take advantage of preexisting and seemingly immutable ignorance.
Paradigmatic case in point: the nationwide 60 percent of Americans in vocal support of Arizona's staggering unconstitutionalism -- a polling percentage almost certainly artificially low, given that additional supportive respondents were also just smart enough to know that their support is embarrassingly troglodytic, so mum was the word.
Hence Arizona's Know-Nothing nativism and its Neanderthaloid populist backing are, observed Politico, likely yet another electoral notch for that representative voice of exploitable ignorance, the Republican Party: they've "caused leading Republicans to fret about the party?s frayed relationship with Hispanic voters [and] may indeed pose a long-term threat to the GOP?s prospects," nonetheless "in the here and now ... the law appears to be a poison-tipped arrow in the Republican quiver."
Expressive of "leading Republicans' " anxiety was former Maverick and GWB advisor Mark McKinnon, who told the NY Times that "this is an issue on which Republicans salivate over short-term gains without much thought to the longer-term damage it will do the party."
But Mr. McKinnon, there's always more exploitable, replenishable ignorance. Once this issue passes from populism's frantic view, some other will be dangled. And off The People will go, freshly hysterical and profoundly forgetful about self-indicting nativism, just as they dismissed unprovoked war and explosively wasteful "fiscal conservatism" and assorted Constitutional molestations and so on, and so on, and so on.
We just can't give modern Republicanism and its ancient afflictions enough second chances. And whose fault is that?
When President Obama made speeches about health care reform, he claimed many times that "...and if you like your current health care, you'll be able to keep it." Turns out he should have asked the people who pay the lion's share of that coverage before he spoke.
What Obama meant was that if an employer has a health insurance program, workers could stay on that program, and would not be forced by the government into any other program. Like, say, a Public Option, or Single Payer. This was at the behest of the insurance companies in the person of Karen Ignagni. The idea was to protect those companies' bottom lines, most of which is employer-based. Again, someone should have spoken to the companies. If corporations drop coverage, it's a boon to their bottom line, as the numbers later in this post will show. In addition, the drop doesn't affect insurance companies, as they will still sell policies on the open market. The only person adversely affected in all this is the individual worker. Go figure.
AT&T, Verizon, Deere, Caterpillar and other large corporations are currently considering their options. You may remember that within days of the health care bill being signed into law, some companies announced that they would opt out and pay the fine. Henry Waxman's Committee requested documentation and scheduled hearings. Once they read the documents, they canceled the hearings. Without forcing you to read all 1,100 pages submitted to the Energy Committee, here are some highlight from AT&T, Deere, and Verizon. Bottom line? It will cost much less to shed coverage and pay the fine. Example:
The fine for AT&T would have amounted to $2,000 per employee, costing the company a grand total of $600 million a year. Maintaining benefits, meanwhile, will cost the firm some $4.6 billion.
I know what you're thinking: having a good benefits package helps companies attract the best talent, and makes them an attractive choice to prospective employees. Also, you're probably thinking that the companies would pay extra money to their employees if they ditched their insurance coverage.
Here's where those trains come off their respective rails: if unemployment is at 3%, and there's a huge manufacturing base with strong unions and the non-union companies want to prevent unionization of their industries and stockholders are happy with moderate growth, then yes, they'd keep the benefits. None of the preconditions are currently met. $4 billion is a lot for AT&T to pull in one year from cost cutting. And there would be similar amounts for other large corporations.
Further, there is the cascade effect: once many large companies don't offer health insurance it will ripple, and eventually very few, if any, companies will offer it. The funny thing is, the unintended consequence may well be that the government ends up with Single Payer because of this situation.
Remember the CBO score indicating that the health care bill would decrease the deficit? One of their assumptions was that fewer than 25 million Americans would be collecting government subsidies for health insurance by 2020. But:
By Fortune's reckoning, each person who's dropped would cost the government an average of around $2,100 after deducting the extra taxes collected on their additional pay. So if 50% of people covered by company plans get dumped, federal health care costs will rise by $160 billion a year in 2016, in addition to the $93 billion in subsidies already forecast by the CBO.
It could easily end up costing less to the government to go into the Single Payer business, and therefore act as the insurance provider (although not the service provider). Remember, though, that government only doesn't do things if it lacks money or political will. In this case, the money may be there, but the political will may not.
In the intervening years, however, it will be ugly.
It's also interesting to note that, as England swings towards the Tories, the very opposite is happening in Scotland where the voters have elected only Tory MP out of a possible 58.
She won the Brighton Pavilion constituency from Labour in what many consider is the nation's most 'alternative' city.
The leader of the Greens was regarded as the frontrunner but there were fears of a surge by the Liberal Democrats amid the excitement surrounding Nick Clegg.
However, as the Liberal democrats suffered a disappointing night nationwide, Ms Lucas was able to claim victory in the south coast resort.
She said as the Greens began their celebrations: "Tonight the people of Brighton Pavilion have made history by voting Britain's first Green MP to Westminster." She added that the result was a triumph of hope over fear.
To do worse than Thatcher in Scotland, where she was universally loathed, is quite something.
On the night Labour secured more than 40% of all votes cast, more than the last general election in 2005.
The party's campaign co-ordinator Douglas Alexander said it had secured "spectacular" results in Scotland.
She was known as one of "Cameron's Cuties" after he intervened personally when she handed in her resignation after a spat with Amanda Sayers.
But Cameron had high hopes for Joanne Cash, imagining her to be a future Tory star. Unfortunately for Cameron, she has not only failed to win her Westminster North seat, but she has launched an extraordinary attack on the media in the wake of her loss.
After her defeat by more than 2,000 votes, Ms Cash said: "This is a very strange night up and down the country, there are very strange results everywhere. But the Westminster North media played an incredibly powerful role, and we have to face the question about what their role will be going forward. Are they going to tell the truth or are they going to trash people, lie about their families. And hello to my family who are watching.It says something about how Cameron has utterly failed to win over the public that some of his most favourite candidates, people he imagined as future Tory stars, have failed even to be elected in places like Westminster North.
"This probably is the only chance I will get to put the record straight and it's not conventional to do so at a time like this but I want to do. Whatever the result through the rest of country, the rest of night, the Conservatives have a vision for this country and I hope we can find a way to implement that.'' Ms Cash particularly referred to what she described as 'lies' about her husband Octavious, a close friend of David Cameron's.
Great Britain, the country with three major political parties, all to the left of our Democrats, held its election yesterday. In some respects it was business as usual.Everyone got excited that this might be the year the Liberal Democrats (who are[...]
Read The Full Article:
If an emotional issue is bringing you down, Shimmy, make sure you find healthy ways to resolve the situation. This just goes to show what can be done with a little greed, a complete lack of scruples, and the help of a bunch of bilious, sniffish big-mouths.
Really, if you want to burst into tears, this should be your prerogative. You don't need Sarah Palin, the kleptomaniac, forcing you to weep. Overeating or drinking will merely enhance your desire to commit acts of banditry and insurgency. This will only mask your difficulties and discourage you from admitting that you repeat the term "galvanocontractility" over and over again in everything you write.
In the emotional sphere, your day is located under the sign of sincerity, causing you to write letters that accuse the Wastebasket Enemy Combatant and his friends of being catty duffers.
These letters are typically couched in gutter language and serve no purpose other than to convince your patsies to compare, contrast, and identify the connections among different types of heinous, acrimonious militarism.
You feel at ease in your fur, Shimmy, and at one with those around you. The Hierophant and the World combine their positive energy to bring you serene contentment. So how come the bullfrog-insulator is nowhere to be found?
A bat flies into your mouth; you still can?t believe your luck. Reassured by the protective presence of the Fool and the Emperor, you don?t hurl yourself at the deadbeat's sallow like a bull at a gate, but instead take the time to work out the best way around the debutante-kleptomaniac Sarah Palin and her shabby aristocrats. Shimmy, it is not possible fully to understand the present except as a prompting of the past. Make your bicker, assay the stone of what you know.
Read The Full Article:
On what is shaping up to be a rather depressing grey morning here in the UK, we have had the occasional burst of sunshine: the voters of the mainly white constituency of Barking in east London have overwhelmingly rejected British National Party leader Nick Griffin by some 16,000 votes.
It's reassuring that, even with an unpopular Labour government, the constituents of Barking did not fall for Griffin's racist message.
"This is really a great moment in our history, a never-to-be forgotten moment for both the good and decent people of Barking and Dagenham," she said.
"Our election here in this constituency was very different from elsewhere in Britain and our voters faced a stark choice.
"And they have overwhelmingly chosen to support a democratic politics, built on tolerance, on fairness and on decency. Not a fascist politics built on division, prejudice and hatred.
"The lesson from Barking to the BNP is clear: Get out and stay out, you're not wanted here and your vile politics have no place in British democracy.
"Pack your bags and go."