Monday, November 28, 2011

Last Call

The One Percenters complain that we can't possibly spend any more money to help Americans in need right now, that we have to cut, cut, cut social programs and aid to the 99% as the Great Recession and the Housing Depression rolls on.

Turns out the banksters got more money than anyone possibly imagined, including me.  The Fed, over three years, made $7.7 trillion in emergency no-interest or low-interest loans to banks, including $1.2 trillion on one day, in order to save the financial system.

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

A fresh narrative of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 emerges from 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions. While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger. 

And the banks made $13 billion in profit off these loans.   Topping the list: Citigroup made $1.8 billion off those loans, Bank of America $1.5 billion, and Royal Bank of Scotland made $1.2 billion off of the America taxpayer.  But that's not socialism, or course.

So yeah.  When the one percent and the companies they work for and own need money, they get $7.7 trillion in loans to keep the status quo going.  Meanwhile, you as a peon?  You should be made to suffer.  It builds character.


What Does 45 Look Like?

When you're Cindy Crawford, the answer is pretty damn good.

Crawford, 45, was recently seen on a beach in the company of Molly Sims and Stacy Keibler and held her own.  That's some pretty fierce competition.  Sims is an all around knockout and Keibler has the most famous legs in Hollywood (I'm not talking about George Clooney's!).

I have always been a fan of Cindy Crawford's.  When empty stares and the heroin look was in, she was healthy and vibrant.  She gave solid interviews with a realistic outlook.  She was pursuing a degree in chemical engineering when she became a supermodel, so she's no dummy, either.

Her secret?  Common sense and moderation.  She doesn't avoid the sun but she limits it.  She eats healthy consistently, so a piece of cake won't derail her diet.  She says she never diets, she takes good care of herself and is conscious of her nutrition and the rest takes care of itself.  She never had a rep as a party gal, so she isn't fighting years of liver damage and drug abuse.

It's nice to see one of the elite living just like us, and enjoying it.

Greek Fire, Part 47

How bad are things in the Eurozone this week?  Horrendous.  Over Thanksgiving weekend I had a conversation with my econ buddy Asariel and his wonderful wife about where the euro is going, and it's mildly frightening how much their insights matched up on this piece from FT's Wolfgang Munchau.  His analysis: the Eurozone has maybe until the end of next week to find a real solution or the game is over.

Technically, one can solve the problem even now, but the options are becoming more limited. The eurozone needs to take three decisions very shortly, with very little potential for the usual fudges. First, the European Central Bank must agree a backstop of some kind…. The second measure is a firm timetable for a eurozone bond…. The third decision is a fiscal union. This would involve a partial loss of national sovereignty, and the creation of a credible institutional framework to deal with fiscal policy….

I am hearing that there are exploratory talks about a compromise package comprising those three elements. If the European summit could reach a deal on December 9, its next scheduled meeting, the eurozone will survive. If not, it risks a violent collapse. Even then, there is still a risk of a long recession, possibly a depression….

It's that third decision point that Munchau brings up that scares me.  That's exactly what Asariel's wife said (and she knows a few things about large budgets and macroeconomics), that a collective currency without a united fiscal policy was never going to work, and that the individual European countries would never agree to such loss of sovereignty.

Munchau is taking that a step further.  If they don't agree to that, the euro is going to implode.  Furthermore, that implosion could come in a matter of days now, not weeks or months.  It's some very sobering stuff, and Munchau doesn't believe that the Europeans and in particular Angel Merkel are going to be able to agree on doing it.

I cannot quite see how the German chancellor is going to extricate herself from these self-inflicted constraints….

I don't either.

I have yet to be convinced that the European Council is capable of reaching such a substantive agreement given its past record. Of course, it will agree on something and sell it as a comprehensive package. It always does. But the half-life of these fake packages has been getting shorter. After the last summit, the financial markets’ enthusiasm over the ludicrous idea of a leveraged EFSF evaporated after less than 48 hours. Italy’s disastrous bond auction on Friday tells us time is running out. The eurozone has 10 days at most.

Crash helmets, people.  It's going to be an ugly winter.

Michele Bachmann Cries Like A Little Girl

Grow up, lady.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) apparently isn't happy with the apology she received from NBC after a vulgar song was played during her recent appearance on "Late Night" with Jimmy Fallon.

As Bachmann walked onstage, the show's band, The Roots, played a 1985 Fishbone song titled "Lyin Ass B----."

Bachmann called the incident "inappropriate, outrageous and disrespectful," and accused NBC of liberal bias. "This wouldn't be tolerated if this was Michelle Obama. It shouldn't be tolerated if it's a conservative woman either," she said on Fox.

Of course she isn't happy with the apology. She hasn't milked it to death. NBC was gracious enough to issue an apology, but she can get more mileage if she keeps beating the dead horse.

"Of course I accept the apology but my guess is that it would have been the president of the NBC that would have been apologizing not a senior vice president," had the song been directed at a liberal woman like Michelle Obama, she said.

I mean, it's only outrageous when you play a song, but not when you're telling outright lies about other candidates.  It's not disrespectful when you disparage the working class voter and tell them they don't deserve a solid education.   It's not inappropriate to tell millions of women what their health care options should be so that other people can be comfortable with their medical decisions.

Nice of her to know what would be tolerated if it was Michelle Obama.  I think it's great how Bachmann knows what might have been.  Because NASCAR fell all over itself apologizing for their rudeness recently, right?  But did the president of NASCAR apologize?  I'm sorry, I have to stop.  Just saying president of NASCAR is making me giggle.

That's it.  I'm writing a song called Stupid Assed Bitch and emailing it to Fallon.  Then they can get it dead right.

Breaking: Barney, Frankly He's Out

With the Thanksgiving holiday over, House retirement season kicks off in politics in earnest, and the first name on the list is a huge one:  Rep. Barney Frank.

Rep. Barney Frank announced on Monday he will not seek re-election in 2012.

The democratic representative for Massachusetts’ fourth congressional district was expected to hold a press conference Monday to discuss the announcement.

Frank has been in office since 1981.

No more, it seems. After 32 years, Frank will call it quits.   That's a pretty big loss for the Dems and an opportunity during a census realignment year for the Republicans to actually gain a seat in blue Mass.  Right now all ten belong to the Dems, they'll lose one due to the census.  It's entirely possible now that the Republicans could pick up a seat here.

The larger news is if Barney Frank is leaving, the fear is more Dems are going to follow.  We'll see who else hangs it up this year.

That New Mars Rover, He's A Curious Cat

After Saturday's launch, the NASA Curiosity Mars rover is on its way to the red planet to do some exploring.

"I think this mission is an important next step in NASA's overall goal to address the issue of life in the universe," lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told reporters shortly after the launch.

The car-sized rover, nicknamed Curiosity, is expected to touch down on August 6, 2012, to begin two years of detailed analysis of a 96-mile (154-km) wide impact basin near the Martian equator called Gale Crater.

The goal is to determine if Mars has or ever had environments to support life. It is the first astrobiology mission to Mars since the 1970s-era Viking probes.

Scientists chose the landing site because it has a three-mile-high (4.8-km high) mountain of what appears from orbital imagery and mineral analysis to be layers of rock piled up like the Grand Canyon, each layer testifying to a different period in Mars' history.

The rover has 17 cameras and 10 science instruments, including chemistry labs, to identify elements in soil and rock samples to be dug up by the probe's drill-tipped robotic arm.

I'm hoping that NASA's willing to share some feed from the Curiosity lab when August rolls around.  I'm not sure if we'll get a manned mission to Mars in my lifetime, but this is certainly going to be a vital step in that eventual process.  Imagine what different events in 2000 could have led to in our efforts to explore our solar system instead of two wars and a financial crisis.

Godspeed, my mechanical friend.  New tag: I'm The Best At Space!

Stacking The Deck In The Queen City

It's not just at the federal level where tax shifting games and loophole nonsense are played and the wealthy benefit, it happens at the local and county level, too.  Take Cincy's sales tax increase for the stadiums, for example.

Owners of Hamilton County's high-end homes get more back in a property tax rebate than they pay in the half-cent sales tax that funded the construction of the county's two professional sports stadiums.
That means the "average" county homeowners are footing the bill for the stadiums.

As Hamilton County commissioners work to cover a $14.2 million deficit in the stadium fund, some are questioning whether that's fair.

The Enquirer analyzed last year's $17.4 million property tax payout, the most recent data available, ahead of a commissioner decision this week about what the rebate should be in 2012.

The half-cent stadium sales tax paid by homeowners is estimated by the county to be a maximum $192 annually, while owners of the county's highest-value homes get rollback rebates of $1,175 or more - netting them nearly $1,000 apiece under the current structure.

Yeah, that's right, a net county tax rebate for the wealthy while the stadium fund remains millions in the red. Nice work if you can get it, and that's because sales taxes (and other consumption based taxes) hit poorer Americans harder.  By definition they are regressive.  Meanwhile, the property tax rollback means those who have significant wealthy in real estate are taking money from the county on a net taxation basis.

The real problem is that the property tax rebates if eliminated, would get rid of the county's stadium fund shortfall...and still leave money for some rebates.

It seems like there should be an obvious solution here.  We'll see if county commissioners are willing to remedy this problem.


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