Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Last Call

Greg Sargent figures that labor activists and unions can still win in Michigan.

Republicans have tried to protect the law from going before the voters by attaching an appropriation to it; spending bills can’t be overturned by legislative referendum in Michigan. But union operatives think there is another mechanism by which the law can be challenged. According to one good government group’s analysis of the state constitution, there exists the option of the “statutory initiative,” which would be forced by the collecting of signatures equal to at least eight percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

Will unions and Michigan Democrats avail themselves of this option? Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the labor-funded Workers’ Voice, which played a big role in the Ohio and Wisconsin labor wars, tells me it’s being seriously considered. “The Michigan Constitution allows two other ways to let the people decide this issue on the ballot, and whether it’s one of those options or the 2014 Governor’s election itself, Michiganders will be heard loud and clear,” Vale says. (There may also be another referendum option as well.)

The idea here is this: If such a tactic can force a vote on the “right to work” law, Governor Snyder will be heading into reelection in 2014 up against a heavily energized union base, a ton of money pumped into the state by national unions — even as there’s a major pro-collective bargaining initiative on the ballot. Of course, if this happens, major money from the right will flow into the state, too.

Now, to be clear, the major unions may decide against this route — or it may not work. But if they do opt for it, and if it does work, you could see another extended showdown similar to the ones in Wisconsin and Ohio — still another nationally funded clash over the broader fate of organized labor. Stay tuned.

Here's hoping he's right.  If labor throws in the towel in Michigan of all states, it's over.

Too Big To Prosecute

More on that nearly $2 billion HSBC bank settlement over money laundering from Andrew Ross Sorkin at the NY Times:

Behind the scenes, authorities debated for months the advantages and perils of a criminal indictment against HSBC.

Some prosecutors at the Justice Department’s criminal division and the Manhattan district attorney’s office wanted the bank to plead guilty to violations of the federal Bank Secrecy Act, according to the officials with direct knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The law requires financial institutions to report any cash transaction of $10,000 or more and to bring any dubious activity to the attention of regulators.

Given the extent of the evidence against HSBC, some prosecutors saw the charge as a healthy compromise between a settlement and a harsher money-laundering indictment. While the charge would most likely tarnish the bank’s reputation, some officials argued that it would not set off a series of devastating consequences.

A money-laundering indictment, or a guilty plea over such charges, would essentially be a death sentence for the bank. Such actions could cut off the bank from certain investors like pension funds and ultimately cost it its charter to operate in the United States, officials said.

Despite the Justice Department’s proposed compromise, Treasury Department officials and bank regulators at the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency pointed to potential issues with the aggressive stance, according to the officials briefed on the matter. When approached by the Justice Department for their thoughts, the regulators cautioned about the effect on the broader economy.

In other words,  even prosecuting HSBC could cause another financial collapse, so that's simply not an option when a bank of HSBC's size breaks the law.

Does anyone else think that might be a problem?

War On Christmas, War On Homelessness

Here's some sobering news on the commercialization of holiday season:

Ending homelessness in the US would be the same cost as 5 years of oil industry subsidies, or about 80% of one year's worth of what Americans spend on Christmas decorations.

Of course, that's a fraction of ending the Bush-era capital gains tax cuts, as you can see.  Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, as they say.


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