Hot air: We are all full of it which is what makes this situation so difficult. Ideology gets in the way of practicality. The fact is that the U.S. has slipped from #1 to unimaginable depths in quality, accessibility of health care, while we have gone to #1 (by a factor of 50% on average) in its cost. We now rank off the list in longevity, hospital beds per 1000 populations, doctors per 1000 population etc. But the argument somehow seems to be change versus no change instead of HOW to change it so that our star begins to rise again.

If people like their health care system in other countries and would never want to trade it (including the doctors and hospitals that work within it) why would you want to change it. That is a goal, not an obstacle nor something to be avoided.  Nobody likes the American health care system except the people profiting from it. We are over medicated, under fed in terms of nutrition safe from harmful diseases, overfed in terms of quantity, dying sooner than most other modern countries and actually getting shorter in our height. These are facts not opinions. Many doctors in our system make less money and have less money at the end of the month than their European counterparts. They also have less room for judgment and are likely to be sued for a perceived or actual bad result even if they used their best judgment. Small wonder that most of the world considers our system to be utterly ridiculous.

Practical fact. add up the cost of medical care for everyone who gets it — including people on or off some health care plan (thus including all those ER visits for a sniffle) and we are already paying enough to cover everyone pretty well — but we are not. “Personal responsibility” is an ideology that has its place and is very important to our culture, our future and our national character. But this is like prohibition of criminalizing drugs — nobody thinks alcohol and drugs are a great thing to do that should be promoted in opur society. But look what prohibition and the war on drugs produced. Failure. And a lot of profits for the now privitized prison system. So many people are making so much money on both sides of the war on drugs that they are incentivized to continue it — and that means putting out brainwashing information scaring the shit out of people so the status quo is maintained while our society becomes incarcerated (1 out of 10) and thugs make billions. Alternatives exist around the world that point to a better way.

It would be nice if everyone velieved and behaved according to your concept of personal responsibility. But here is the catch — first, they don’t do it. So if you make retirement subject solely or partially the responsibility of the citizen that is a good ideological goal. But we already know that most people won’t do it. So what are as a society going to do with all those people that can’t afford food or housing or medical care? Government plans are imperfect to say the least, but they are all we have as a safety net not for the people who receive money but for our economy and our society. It costs far more to deal with hundreds of thousaonds of homeless families than to prevent it. Simple arithmetic. And if it offends your ideology that some people will take advantage — where is your outrage over the farm subsidies, the bloated military budget and medicare PArt D which brought us to the pinnacle of writing a blank check to the Pharmaceutical industry? There is far more expense in their than anything proposed for health care.

We now spend 15% of our GDP on healthcare compared with around 9-10% in other countries. Just using the actually current figures, that percentage is going up under the present system while it stays the same in other countries. Your idea about the citizen paying for the first $15,000 sucks — but not because it isn’t a good idea. It sucks because the only way it could work in theory is if you fabricate available discretionary spending for individuals and families. They don’t have the money. It is one of the many tricks we play on ourselves when we boast lower unemployment than other countries. we have lower unemployment because we count it differently than they do. Our unemployment now sits at just under 25% counting apples to apples — that’s why we have a recession so deep and why the entire society is changing. If our real unemployment was only 9.4% it wouldn’t really be that bad. We have lower taxes because we only count the income tax. When you add up the taxes everyone pays, it is regressive, and it amounts to well over 70% depending upon what you call a tax — which to me is any government enforced payment from the citizen. At the end of the month the average American is broke and under water. Our european counterparts with “higher unemployment” and “higher Taxes” have more money, less debt and less stress at the end of each month. If you want to play with statistics, count the ones that count, not the ones that fit your preconceived ideology.

If you want more personal responsibility start with education and public information programs to change the culture. Don’t expect people to simply change. They don’t do that. You are a perfect example. Your kids are learning about personal responsibility and consequences because that what theya re being taught. So life will come as no surprise to them when they realize that it is up to them. But most people in our culture (which is why you are home schooling) are being taught the reverse. it isn’t right, but that is what theya re growing up with. The current work ethic is that the employee is doing you a favor if they show up — don’t expect any work too. That isn’t going to change through government inspried economic coercion. we have tried both ends of the spectrum on that and it didn’t work — the left produced the welfare multigenerational culture and the right produced homeless people in the streets. On the level of the society as a whole these thigns are true: Most liberals don’t liberate anyone. Most conservatives don’t conserve anything. Most libertarians do nothing to preserve personal liberties. When the day comes that the conversation shifts what we can do practically speaking, maybe that will change. Right now everyone is sticking to their ideological (fabricated) rhetoric and acomplishing nothing.

Everyone wants to stick their hand in the pot of taxpayer dollars and the ones who usually get it are the ones closest to the microphone necaucse they have the most wealth and power. They are also the ones that least need it. take a look at the banks that made trillions off-shore and had the audacity to collude with Paulson in the overnight creation of the TARP legislation. $700 billion pledged mostly under the control of Goldman Sachs which basically has its past leaders and significant officers in most areas of government. These banks didn’t hold troubled assets so they were not entitled to relief even if you put the more sophisticated policy conflicsts aside. The troubled assets were owned by investors who didn’t get very much TARP money. Most of it went to bank holding companies that (a) had no troubled assets and (b) didn’t lend money but owned banking insitutions that did lend money.

So the reality check here is not what is “right” it is what will bring our situation under control against a backdrop of people spending hundreds of millions of dollars to preserve their cash cow at the expense of the medical profession and the quality of our health care.

Is Your Money Safe?

November 29, 2008

It’s along time since I wrote this piece on March 1, 2007 — before I even started the blog. I believed then as I do now that the safety of our nation, the soundness of our economy and the happiness and freedoms of our children and grandchildren depend entirely upon our actions today. In this great experimental democracy the boss is us, not government. But if you let the servants of our governance run wild you will get wild results. The correction is in change of personnel and increasing our involvement in the process of change.

The simple truth is that the solution to the credit crisis lies not in issuing more unsound money that will result in downgrading the United States as an issuer, but rather in restructuring the transactions that defrauded borrowers here and investors around the world — without money changing hands.

It is an unfortunate hiccup in our history that we have become more afraid of our government than our government is of us. That isn’t the case in many other Western countries but it is certainly true here. In other countries a government bailout by printing extra money and giving it to the thieves that caused the problem would cause marching in the streets and worse. Here we sit idly by and hope that the people who got us into this mess will get us out. They won’t. They have no reason to do so. Sheila Bair at FDIC is absolutely right and is the lone voice in the wilderness although nobody is paying attention.

There isn’t enough money in the world or that can be printed to correct the financial markets. The entire approach is dead wrong and will lead to gross periods of inflation and contraction that are unprecedented. Nobody but the very few will be content. Obama is on the right track by addressing the world with truth and confidence, but actions speak louder than words. The “stimulus” could help the economy but only in the context of global economics where we are restored the community of nations with trust and respect.

The ONLY solution to the credit crisis is restoration of stolen wealth from the middle and lower classes through forgiveness of of debt obtained through deceit and ill-gotten gains. The ONLY way to do that without further damaging our standing in the financial world is to modify the debt obligations rather than eliminate them. The ONLY way to say to the world we can make amends is by restoring value to the investors who purchased those fraudulent mortgage backed and other asset backed securities.

The ONLY way that can happen is by restructuring both the borrower and the lender side and connecting the dots in between — allowing the giants to fall on their own swords, and allowing, in a free market, the thousands of other financial institutions (who are NOT in ill health because they didn’t play the game) to fill the void left by the collapse of the giants. Saving the giants is the wrong message to the world and will perpetuate the view that the United States is not trustworthy — that we are only interested in our own skins without concerns to morality or ethics.

The proposal: Restructure all mortgages to provide for the creation or increase of equity to all homeowners with mortgages. Provide for low interest rates, fixed rate for 30 years. Provide an equity appreciation clause that allows the “lender” to participate in increases in value of the home. The lower the mortgage principal, the higher the equity for both the borrower and the investor. Reinstate and re-structure the certificates of asset backed securities and provide for a government sponsored entity with congressional and OMB oversight to distribute the money received in payments from borrowers. The same can be done with credit card debt, student loan debt, auto loans and other consumer debt products.

The result: Value is restored to investors who were defrauded with a reasonable likelihood of receiving (a) a fair return, even if it isn’t as high they originally intended and (b) a return of principal that covers all or a substantial part of their investment. It is this “deal” that we breached in such a monumental and unprecedented way that needs to be restored. By addressing the broken promises and deals we address the issue: trust and truth. Looking inward is necessary now that our economy is trapped in the grasp of policies invented by the bullies in the school yard. But if we are ever to return to normalcy which in all events will take years, we must say to the world “I’m sorry, here is how we can make amends. Let’s start over again.”

Is your money Safe? Unlocking the Secrets of Banking

Neil F. Garfield March, 2007

INTRODUCTION:

The simple answer to the question posed by the title is no, your money is not safe and it is getting less safe each month. There are many reasons, only some of which are described in this article. This article is intended for the average person who puts his trust in banks or credit unions, by depositing his money. To a lesser extent this book also describes why the loss of the protections of the Glass Steagal act that preventing cross over between investment banking and depository banking has put not only the rest of your money at risk, but the entire economy.

This is intended as an alarm bell, but in truth most of the horses are already out of the barn. So while there are suggestions on how you can protect yourself, the bottom line is that you will have to become friends with ambiguity and taking your best guess. The information presented here will hopefully assist you.

For those readers who were elected or appointed to positions with legislative or regulatory power, I can only hope that in the vast bureaucracy that receives its principal income and donations from those whom they purport to regulate and control, there might be some individual of integrity, someone who can think beyond his next paycheck, a person who can think beyond the next election, and a patriot or who understands the gift we all received when the founders met, wrote and agreed upon the terms of our existence as a country — the U.S. Constitution.

For the rest of us, who are citizens in this great political experiment that has lasted over 200 years, let’s remember that we have a job to do. If we don’t do it, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We are the boss.

The final say as to who stays and who goes is strictly up to us. Our job is simple — get the facts, make our own decisions, act on those decisions and most importantly vote.

It’s not as as challenging as you think. If you can’t understand what some “expert” is saying then he or she isn’t saying anything of value, whether he or she is in politics, medicine, law or the clergy. Your safety, truth, liberty, privacy and the pursuit of happiness is completely dependent on whether you exercise your power as the boss of your democracy.

For those more technically minded, you are referred to the bibliography at the end of my planned book, and my more technical book aimed at members of the financial services industry entitled: Plan of Engagement: Banking in the 21st Century.

In both books, the assumption that bank consolidation has somehow benefited the economy or the average middle-class family is challenged outright. My conclusion is that while consolidation itself is not necessarily bad in theory, in practice it has resulted in a system that has institutionalized political corruption, anti-competitive practices, raised fees paid by customers and consumers, and is continually increasing the risk in deposits, loans and other forms of money creation by removing the personal element from banking.

Customers of banks and credit unions are mere account numbers and credit scores like the “kidney” in hospital room 202. Statistical assumptions lead to improbable and bad results. Personal knowledge of the specifics on the other hand, leads to a reduction of risk, and a greater likelihood of success.

JP Morgan understood banking better than anyone alive today when he testified before a senate committee and said that character, not money, not collateral and not financial statements, is the most important thing in lending. Character is now missing from both sides of lending and investment. Ironically, the companies that carry Morgan’s name are leading away from character and toward “moral hazard.” They have already sowed the seeds of the greatest calamity ever caused by the financial community.

It is all about figures which can be made to lie and mislead with ease.

The reason why the figures mislead us is that we don’t choose what to measure. We depend on others to make the choices of what to show us and tell us. People with a vested interest in maintaining their wealth, position or power determine what figures to give us, what facts to present. So for example, instead of measuring the value of all services and products, we get only certain classes of services and products included in the calculation of our gross domestic product as a nation.

We allow “experts” or politicians to present conclusions or “solutions” based upon their measuring the things of least interest to the average citizen and excluding those things that are of greatest concern to the average citizen. We are manipulated into a adopting and accepting or at least resigning ourselves to an ideology that doesn’t feel or look right but seems less smelly than the competing one. We hold our noses as we vote because in truth we know we don’t have the facts, we are not doing our jobs as voters and citizens, and we have put ourselves at the mercy of those who will show us no mercy.

It is my hope, at the conclusion of reading this article or even while reading, if you are so moved, that you will return the favor to them with a vengeance that they richly deserve through the courts, political action, and group protests. Those bonuses and ridiculuous salaries are coming off your food table.

It will happen whenever you choose to make it happen. The channeling of scant (and declining) wealth in the middle-class to a select few in the elite of our society is unrelenting. They will fight to keep it that way but that is where your rights as a citizen comes in. The ultimate power lies in your hands with a vote, and the ultimate power would then be with those employees of the voters who serve in elective offices to restore a level playing field and allow new business, new financial services and competing interests to work it out in the marketplace without being forced under the radar to compete in perfectly legitimate and productive ways.

Neil F. Garfield

March 1, 2007

Cancel That Mortgage: The Grounds

Mortgages can be cancelled in a process called rescission. Here’s an overview. Grounds for exercising this right given borrowers by Congress are found in problems with the mortgage closing documents for a residential second mortgage or refinanced mortgage.

Problems include the absence of Truth In Lending Disclosures, such as the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for interest and the amounts and schedule of payments. The absence of “monthly” in the payment schedule has been held to be a defect allowing rescission. The APR might not be calculated correctly, or the Truth In Lending Disclosure form might never have been given at all.

Another problem can be a failure to give two separate cancellation notices to each borrower. For example, a married couple should get a total of four cancellation notices. Here’s an earlier discussion of this.

A third problem can be the use of incomplete cancellation notices. The suggested form tells a borrower that the cancellation must take place within three business days of the date of the transaction, with a blank space for a date. It adds that the cancellation notice must be sent no later than midnight of the third business day following the triggering date, with another blank space for a date.

If both blanks are not completed, then the cancellation notice is defective and the right to cancel continues beyond the initial three days. This was the ruling in the recent Massachusetts federal case of Bonney v. Washington Mutual Bank.

Another ground might be an Unfair or Deceptive Trade Practice from the terms of the mortgage. A Massachusetts state judge has ruled that a mortgage might be subject to cancellation if a mortgage had (1) interest which adjusted within its first three years, and (2) an initial “teaser” rate was at least 3% lower than the fully indexed rate, and (3) a borrower with a debt-to-income ratio of over 50% if the fully indexed interest rate is used, and (4) either the loan-to-value ratio is 100% (no equity), or there is a substantial prepayment penalty, or any prepayment penalty extends beyond the introductory period.

Privatization: Selling Out America

GAO Report Details Many Abuses of Government Trust

See report on how to privatize (outsource) government functions at 

http://www.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=gao&docid=f:gg97048.txt

 

Many of my readers have been asking about PRIVATE TAXATION: Private “taxation” is the charging of fees by a private entity for public services that have historically been provided by government. The reason they were always provided by government is that in every case, the service or product is something that every person MUST have to survive in our society. 

One test is to to see what happens if someone doesn’t get it — like fire service, or health care. If someone does not get fire service, their house burns down and so do the houses around it. If someone drops to the ground with a seizure outside the the emergency room, they lie there and die unless someone takes them in and treats them. 

If someone gets hit over the head and robbed we want police to either stop it or have an infrastructure to capture the culprit — regardless of whether the individual involved has paid their taxes. That’s the key. Where we all have an interest in making sure that services are delivered to people other than ourselves, it is a social function and therefore absolutely and exclusively within the scope of government function or regulation.

As a society we make sure that certain things are done because of the dangers to the property of others, the health of others, the competence of others (education) or the maintenance of our infrastructure and investment in modernizing our roads and transportation systems. 

Government’s role, most of us would agree regardless of ideology, is to make certain that services are distributed in such a way that society performs in peace, safety, and prosperity. 

Whether this is done through private enterprise or public agencies is a policy decision. Obviously where the service can be produced at the lowest cost to society and highest quality, THAT would be an indicator of whether the government should provide it or private enterprise should provide it under government regulation to assure that services are in fact delivered, and that the owner of the private enterprise doesn’t take the money and run.

PRIVATIZING IS SNEAKY WAY TO INCREASE YOUR COSTS, LOWER THE QUALITY OF THE SERVICE, AND CREATE THE APPEARANCE OF LOWER TAXES, WHEN IN FACT THEY HAVE INCREASED SUBSTANTIALLY. BY MERELY CALLING THEM FEES FROM PRIVATE ENTERPRISE GOVERNMENT LEADERS CAN CLAIM THAT TAXES HAVE NOT BEEN INCREASED.

While we voters were sleeping for the past 30 years, plans have been in development for privatizing just about everything in America. The words are slippery. The politicians who have been bought and who are now owned by the proponents of this idea are able to pivot from what it IS to how they want it to APPEAR to the American public. 

You would be amazed at how many privatizing events have already occurred and astonished at the number of events coming. Prisons are run by private industry who thus have an interest in seeing to it that they are full, which they are: The U.S. has the highest prison population of any country per capita including most dictatorships. In order to keep the prisons full and the prison owners rich they lobby for criminalizing behavior and enforcement of laws in the most “productive” way for them. 

Think about it. The “War on Drugs” is essential to the prison owners who must keep all drugs criminalized, and essential to drug cartels who would suffer collapse if their “products” were commoditized instead of criminalized. 

Of course further examples abound. The sale of Pennsylvania toll roads virtually guarantees higher tolls and lower maintenance, high traffic fatalities, and lower national security. 

In recent times past, I joked that we would one day outsource (privatize) our military to China, because we could spend $25 per year and hire a hundred million soldiers. Now it isn’t funny. Functions that were and have been sacredly guarded as government functions are being “outsourced” (privatized) for fun and profit while the rest of us suffer from SERIOUS BREACHES OF OUR NATIONAL SECURITY, rotting infrastructure, train stations that look like WE lost World War II (go on the net and take a look at the train stations in Germany and Japan), etc.

I call to your attention the following list published by the Government Accounting Office (GAO):

GAO PRIVATIZATION PRODUCTS RELATED TO STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
Child Support Enforcement:  Early Results on Comparability of Privatized and Public Offices (GAO/HEHS-97-4, Dec.  16, 1996). 

Airport Privatization:  Issues Related to the Sale or Lease of U.S. Commercial Airports (GAO/RCED-97-3, Nov.  7, 1996). 

Child Support Enforcement:  States’ Experience With Private Agencies’Collection of Support Payments (GAO/HEHS-97-11, Oct.  23, 1996). 

Private and Public Prisons:  Studies Comparing Operational Costs and/or Quality of Service (GAO/GGD-96-158, Aug.  16, 1996). 

Child Support Enforcement:  States and Localities Move to Privatized Services (GAO/HEHS-96-43FS, Nov.  20, 1995). 

District of Columbia:  City and State Privatization Initiatives and Impediments (GAO/T-GGD-95-194, June 28, 1995). 

District of Columbia:  Actions Taken in Five Cities to Improve Their Financial Health (GAO/T-GGD-95-110, Mar.  2, 1995). 

Obama represents a potential break in the logjam of divided, narrow thinking and a return to basic American characteristics of playful invention to cope with even the most severe problems.

ECONOMICS: How Economists downplay substitution on the supply side, and discount American Innovation, American Ingenuity and American Temerity. Bad policy from flawed measurements. Flawed Measurements from biased, agenda-based ideology.

“The central problem confronting the new President is not the political issues of conflicting ideology nor the “choices” presented by well-intentioned economists; the real issue is leadership in seeing what economists call “waste” and imbalance” as opportunity.”

Empty steel and auto-making plants have an unequalled opportunity of leveraging an existing infrastructure to manufacture wind generators, new concept products and most importantly cars that are far ahead of the curve and exactly what consumers want.

Phoenix Motors Cars and other new entrants into the race for longer range high speed all-electric vehicles that can be recharged in minutes on the road, or with a few solar panels during the day at home have taken the ultimate risk and ultimate plunge and are doing very well in their development stage vehicles.

Too much wheat? Create incentives to find other uses. Of course we can help feed the world, but there are hundreds of other uses to produce energy, manufacture goods, create new products for building materials and dozens of possibilities that are probably lingering in the heads of some farmers right now. Those expensive subsidies could be turning a profit for government and farmers and provide an opportunity for small farmers to make money no matter how much surplus wheat is grown.

Subsidies: Whether it is for individuals going through rough times, businesses going through rough times, businesses being incentivized, there is an important element of risk that is being reduced for the recipients. This reduction of risk is worth a great deal of “value” to the recipients. What are they paying for it? If it is individual there are all kinds of community service that can be worked into almost anyone’s schedule. If it is a business, this value can be passed on to consumers in reduced prices or greater benefits. The point here is not to prescribe specific methods of payments but only to say that ANYONE who gets a benefit from the government should be paying for it through taxes, giving back to the community or providing financial or non-financial benefits to the marketplace and society. 

That corn is being diverted to production of ethanol is a political pandering of the worst sort. What politicians and economists have both missed completely is not just that there are much better energy efficient alternative products from which to refine ethanol (cane sugar, cellulose, wheat etc) but that since we are able to produce so much corn, we can lower its price, keep the farmers happy and substitute uses such that farmers are making a good rate of return on VOLUME.  This brings down food costs which increase the opportunities for consumers to pay their bills, save money and thus provide the capital that is currently being “borrowed” from other countries by issuance of increasingly worthless American paper, once called money.

Economists fail to recognize on the supply side that certain substitutions will routinely provide segments or tranches of demand for products wherein the exchange value might be low but the use value may be high. Taken collectively, this represents opportunity for even the smallest farmers and manufacturers.

Corn is a bastardized example of this process and a poor model, mostly because business schools, media and modern economists are not teaching substitution as a general application. They teach substitution only on the demand side where the inventiveness of the American consumer to adapt to changing quality and prices is assumed but the ingenuity and inventiveness of the American producer is dismissed.

Too much interest expense? This curse dating back to the early 1970’s has robbed the country and its citizens of much needed capital for savings, investment and consumption of goods and services that drive our economy. Government’s complicity in making legal (usurious rates and fees) what was always illegal and even criminal needs reversal.

Current plans to reduce mortgage payments and mortgage interest to the teaser rates that were forced down the throats of unsuspecting borrowers using the money from unsuspecting investors, reducing credit card interest and fees, banning payday loans that roll over into 450% loans etc.,. are all steps in the right direction of redirecting capital to where it needs to go without robbing the capitalists from receiving a fair return.

Reasonable minds may differ but they can come to agreement on a fair rate of return which maintains financial market liqudiidty without windfall profits to credit card issuers, payday lenders, oil companies, health-care, health insurance and drug companies.

These are the things that central bankers and investors around the world are watching and waiting for and it is only through aggressive innovation, which requires aggressive, innovative education techniques, that good old American ingenuity will once again save the day and the dollar.

EXPLAINING MORTGAGE MELTDOWN, IRAQ AND INEQUALITY OF WEALTH AND OPPORTUNITY

The truth we don’t want to hear is the same truth we shout down as unpatriotic. It is the essence of patriotism and good journalism to speak the truth and to back it up with solid facts that are congruent with the reality we experience in our daily lives. This piece by Moyers is the one of his best, and worth reading and re-reading.

 

Moyers: ‘Democracy in America Is a Series of Narrow Escapes, and We May Be Running Out of Luck’

By Bill Moyers, Doubleday
Posted on May 17, 2008, Printed on May 18, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/85521/

The following is an excerpt from Bill Moyers’ new book, “Moyers on Democracy” (Doubleday, 2008).

Democracy in America is a series of narrow escapes, and we may be running out of luck. The reigning presumption about the American experience, as the historian Lawrence Goodwyn has written, is grounded in the idea of progress, the conviction that the present is “better” than the past and the future will bring even more improvement. For all of its shortcomings, we keep telling ourselves, “The system works.”

Now all bets are off. We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions. A sense of political impotence pervades the country — a mass resignation defined by Goodwyn as “believing the dogma of ‘democracy’ on a superficial public level but not believing it privately.” We hold elections, knowing they are unlikely to bring the corporate state under popular control. There is considerable vigor at local levels, but it has not been translated into new vistas of social possibility or the political will to address our most intractable challenges. Hope no longer seems the operative dynamic of America, and without hope we lose the talent and drive to cooperate in the shaping of our destiny.

The earth we share as our common gift, to be passed on in good condition to our children’s children, is being despoiled. Private wealth is growing as public needs increase apace. Our Constitution is perilously close to being consigned to the valley of the shadow of death, betrayed by a powerful cabal of secrecy-obsessed authoritarians. Terms like “liberty” and “individual freedom” invoked by generations of Americans who battled to widen the 1787 promise to “promote the general welfare” have been perverted to create a government primarily dedicated to the welfare of the state and the political class that runs it. Yes, Virginia, there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it. It isn’t necessary to be a Jeremiah crying aloud to a sinful Jerusalem that the Lord is about to afflict them for their sins of idolatry, or Cassandra, making a nuisance of herself as she wanders around King Priam’s palace grounds wailing “The Greeks are coming.” Or Socrates, the gadfly, stinging the rump of power with jabs of truth. Or even Paul Revere, if horses were still in fashion. You need only be a reporter with your eyes open to see what’s happening to our democracy. I have been lucky enough to spend my adult life as a journalist, acquiring a priceless education in the ways of the world, actually getting paid to practice one of my craft’s essential imperatives: connect the dots.

The conclusion that we are in trouble is unavoidable. I report the assault on nature evidenced in coal mining that tears the tops off mountains and dumps them into rivers, sacrificing the health and lives of those in the river valleys to short-term profit, and I see a link between that process and the stock-market frenzy which scorns long-term investments — genuine savings — in favor of quick turnovers and speculative bubbles whose inevitable bursting leaves insiders with stuffed pockets and millions of small stockholders, pensioners, and employees out of work, out of luck, and out of hope.

And then I see a connection between those disasters and the repeal of sixty-year-old banking and securities regulations designed during the Great Depression to prevent exactly that kind of human and economic damage. Who pushed for the removal of that firewall? An administration and Congress who are the political marionettes of the speculators, and who are well rewarded for their efforts with indispensable campaign contributions. Even honorable opponents of the practice get trapped in the web of an electoral system that effectively limits competition to those who can afford to spend millions in their run for office. Like it or not, candidates know that the largesse on which their political futures depend will last only as long as their votes are satisfactory to the sleek “bundlers” who turn the spigots of cash on and off.

The property qualifications for federal office that the framers of the Constitution expressly chose to exclude for demonstrating an unseemly “veneration for wealth” are now de facto in force and higher than the Founding Fathers could have imagined. “Money rules Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.” Those words were spoken by Populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease during the prairie revolt that swept the Great Plains slightly more than 120 years after the Constitution was signed. They are true today, and that too, spells trouble.

Then I draw a line to the statistics that show real wages lagging behind prices, the compensation of corporate barons soaring to heights unequaled anywhere among industrialized democracies, the relentless cheeseparing of federal funds devoted to public schools, to retraining for workers whose jobs have been exported, and to programs of food assistance and health care for poor children, all of which snatch away the ladder by which Americans with scant means but willing hands and hearts could work and save their way upward to middle-class independence. And I connect those numbers to our triumphant reactionaries’ campaigns against labor unions and higher minimum wages, and to their success in reframing the tax codes so as to strip them of their progressive character, laying the burdens of Atlas on a shrinking middle class awash in credit card debt as wage earners struggle to keep up with rising costs for health care, for college tuitions, for affordable housing — while huge inheritances go untouched, tax shelters abroad are legalized, rates on capital gains are slashed, and the rich get richer and with each increase in their wealth are able to buy themselves more influence over those who make and those who carry out the laws.

Edward R. Murrow told his generation of journalists: “No one can eliminate prejudices — just recognize them.” Here is my bias: extremes of wealth and poverty cannot be reconciled with a genuinely democratic politics. When the state becomes the guardian of power and privilege to the neglect of justice for the people as a whole, it mocks the very concept of government as proclaimed in the preamble to our Constitution; mocks Lincoln’s sacred belief in “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”; mocks the democratic notion of government as “a voluntary union for the common good” embodied in the great wave of reform that produced the Progressive Era and the two Roosevelts. In contrast, the philosophy popularized in the last quarter century that “freedom” simply means freedom to choose among competing brands of consumer goods, that taxes are an unfair theft from the pockets of the successful to reward the incompetent, and that the market will meet all human needs while government itself becomes the enabler of privilege — the philosophy of an earlier social Darwinism and laissez-faire capitalism dressed in new togs — is as subversive as Benedict Arnold’s betrayal of the Revolution he had once served. Again, Mary Lease: “The great evils which are cursing American society and undermining the foundations of the republic flow not from the legitimate operation of the great human government which our fathers gave us, but they come from tramping its plain provisions underfoot.”

Our democracy has prospered most when it was firmly anchored in the idea that “We the People” — not just a favored few — would identify and remedy common distempers and dilemmas and win the gamble our forebears undertook when they espoused the radical idea that people could govern themselves wisely. Whatever and whoever tries to supplant that with notions of a wholly privatized society of competitive consumers undermines a country that, as Gordon S. Wood puts it in his landmark book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, discovered its greatness “by creating a prosperous free society belonging to obscure people with their workaday concerns and their pecuniary pursuits of happiness” — a democracy that changed the lives of “hitherto neglected and despised masses of common laboring people.”

I wish I could say that journalists in general are showing the same interest in uncovering the dangerous linkages thwarting this democracy. It is not for lack of honest and courageous individuals who would risk their careers to speak truth to power — a modest risk compared to those of some journalists in authoritarian countries who have been jailed or murdered for the identical “crime.” But our journalists are not in control of the instruments they play. As conglomerates swallow up newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and networks, and profit rather than product becomes the focus of corporate effort, news organizations — particularly in television — are folded into entertainment divisions. The “news hole” in the print media shrinks to make room for advertisements, and stories needed by informed citizens working together are pulled in favor of the latest celebrity scandals because the media moguls have decided that uncovering the inner workings of public and private power is boring and will drive viewers and readers away to greener pastures of pabulum. Good reporters and editors confront walls of resistance in trying to place serious and informative reports over which they have long labored. Media owners who should be sounding the trumpets of alarm on the battlements of democracy instead blow popular ditties through tin horns, undercutting the basis for their existence and their First Amendment rights.

Bill Moyers is the author of “Moyers on Democracy” (Doubleday, 2008) and the host of the PBS show, Bill Moyers Journal.

 

CONVERSION FROM INDEX TO REALITY

Obama’s call for “TRUTH” is a simplified statement that calls into question the manner in which information is collected, the way it is presented and the manner in which it is disseminated to the public. 

Underlying this simple call for integrity is his assessment that information flow is fundamentally flawed and that a much needed correction will result in smarter policies that people will give credence to and lend their active support; and that the self-fulfilling negative prophecy we are all living can be turned into a positive climb in quality of life. If you already believe this and understand it, there is no need for you to read this article. If you think his statement is mere lofty rhetoric, you might want to consider my presentation here. For those who want further information, look for books by Von MIses and Rothbard.

The tools of power are all based in information. If the information seems reliable, then the policies foisted on us seem reasonable and even “right.” The basic tool in use today is the statistical index. There is something about an index that when published gains the credulity of the public and even those who know better. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

American political and economic history can be viewed from many perspectives and themes. One of them is the ebb and flow of our collective perception of people, regarded sometimes as labor, sometimes as capital and sometimes not at all. 

 

The current business, economic and political environment has failed to advance or evolve very much for most of the people of the United States, even though women received the right to vote some 80 years ago, and blacks received the right to vote some 40 years ago. 

 

The tendency of certain people to accumulate great wealth and power in any society of any nature inevitably produces an inequality not only of results, but of opportunity. American voters, deprived of the education and information they need to know to make informed decisions, are easily manipulated into voting against their own interests.  An educated voter is a nightmare to any power broker, economic cartel, or political cartel.

 

When adults cannot find states, cities or even continents on a map displaying all the information with proper labeling, it is not hard to see how such people can be easily deceived. And those with power and wealth are eager to deceive them, gaming the electoral process into a utility to maintain and expand their wealth and their power.

 

The tools of power are all based in information. If the information seems reliable, then the policies foisted on us seem reasonable and even “right.” The basic tool in use today is the statistical index. There is something about an index that when published gains the credulity of the public and even those who know better. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

 

Whether it is Libor, the inter-bank lending rate index, the CPI, which supposedly measures inflation for consumers, or the indexes used to measure market dominance, we have drawn artificial lines in the sand which allow those in power to continue on their merry way while the rest of us wonder what hit us. 

 

  • The reality is that Libor, bond ratings, measurements of consumer prices, measurements of those employed, measurements of those unemployed, measurements of those underemployed, productivity, and unfair trade practices are all at substantial variance with reality. Thus the mortgage meltdown, the recession, and another opening of Walmart that kills thousands of jobs, hundreds of companies, thousands of opportunities for innovation, and diminishes our choices to dangerous or inferior products with virtually no service inside the store and no assurances of fair treatment once a sale has been completed. 
  • Walmart is able to achieve this feat and become one of the largest companies in the world by converting labor back into capital despite the 13th Amendment. As with all companies of great wealth they were able to purchase the rights to make their activities legal. In reality, those of us who live in the world created by this cash carry government policy making, we see that there is complete 100% market dominance by Walmart in each town it hits. 
  • But statisticians for Walmart just like the statisticians for the drug companies, look for a sampling that gives them the arguable position that what we see right in front of us, just isn’t there. We are deceived, or so they say. We are not looking at the “big picture.” True, nor should we look at THEIR big picture if we want OUR lives improved. There should be a healthy competition between accumulation of wealth and quality of life. In truth, we are at the bottom of the barrel on the level of that all-important competitive “index.”
  • By expanding and contracting the area “affected” by a Walmart store one can present a plausible argument that there is no significant effect on competition. We know different but there it is right there in black and white, by the numbers. 
  • By contracting the sampling on a drug study to a specific period of time where nothing adverse happened to patients taking the experimental drug, the drug is pronounced safe and then tens of thousands of people die because it wasn’t safe, as the REST of the data clearly showed. Management of disinformation is the way we are manipulated into voting against ourselves. Political slogans emanate from false statements from apparently reliable sources. And we are all deceived.
  • By hiring all graduates of regulatory agencies when they retire, a retailer or drug or oil company guarantees that the regulators will not look too deeply into the manner in which such an index is presented. Plausible deniability is the name of the game. The result is you and I get screwed. That is the story of antitrust, the FDA, and dozens of other agencies serving the business sector  to the nearly complete exclusion of the safety and welfare of the taxpayers in whose name they operate. It is the equivalent of a hostile takeover of government where the cash and carry system of legislation perpetuates not merely inequality but threats to the safety and welfare of our citizens.

“Inequality” (regardless of how you define the word “equal”) does and will exist in the most despotic regimes following ideology from Marx to Plato’s progeny producing the likes of John Locke and the scholars of the American Revolution. No regime can provide or assure a specific outcome for the life of one or any of its citizens. This article takes no issue with the inevitability of inequality.

 

Yet we have an innate sense of right and wrong even when we do wrong. We know that “all men are created equal” has a meaning even if we can’t all agree precisely what that means. We know that the U.S. Constitution was written to provide a framework for liberty and freedom but not for women, native Americans and slaves. Women and native Americans counted as zero and black slaves pulled slightly ahead of women at 3/5 of a person, as stated in our constitution. 

 

When the American Slaves were freed about 160 years ago it was, in an economic sense, a conversion of capital into labor. 

 

Slaves had been purchased and traded like bales of cotton or rice or tobacco; they were property, they were allowed no education, no free will, and of course no bargaining power. How would anyone go about “educating” a bale of cotton? It makes no sense. While mystics ascribe a soul to everything, whether we think it is alive or not not, most of us are quite tolerant at denying rights to a bale of cotton, even if it is burned, torn apart are thrown under a bus. In a word, if the cotton “feels” anything, we don’t care and it isn’t likely that we will care anytime soon or that we should. Something in most of us “knows” that the cotton is not worthy of our sympathy, nor do we sense any obligation to it.

 

The system made perfect economic sense: the cost of production was reduced to the absolute minimum, repairs of equipment and “other capital” (like slaves) were repaired until they were of no further use at which point they were discarded. And unlike other forms of capital, slaves reproduced, thus continually expanding the potential for production without further capital expenditures. 

 

Society organized around this system in such a way that no actual person worked, without being regarded as disgraced. Plantations were worked by slaves, managed by slaves and the wealth generated went exclusively to the Plantation owner. The threat of removing this system, depriving the owners of their possession of slave capital was a threat to the entire way of life that had evolved over 200 years. 

 

It makes sense only if you look at some data and not look at other information. The slave capital system was missing a key ingredient — a prospering rising middle class. The non-slave states had it and they did far better in the long run than any of the slave states many of which are still, 160 years alter, at the bottom of the barrel economically and in quality of life. Their resistance to allowing education to a significant population of former slaves was the equivalent of shooting themselves in the head.  It was an all or nothing mentality. Either the slaves would provide free production or we won’t help them do anything. 

 

The “information” Southerners were working with was that blacks were less than human. They thus deprived themselves of the single greatest resource they had to compete in a national economy and eventually internationally. Politicians looking for power found it easy pickings to tease voters into anger and resentment about the Civil War, about slavery, and about Jim Crow segregation. The politicians objectives were simple: maintain power. The rest of the people be damned. (which at the risk of political incorrectness, makes the Reverend Wright’s comment plausible, even if ill-constructed. He wasn’t wrong in what he said. Yet he missed an important point: 40-160 years ago he would have been tortured and hung for making a statement that passed only as a news story now).

 

The importing of tens of millions of Mexican laborers who had “illegal” status is an inevitable result of big business’ realization that the lock on the poor white and poor black populations was loosening. The grip of fear of discovery gave the leverage needed to convert these workers from labor to something as close to slave capital as would be tolerated in our society.

 

The mortgaging of America’s future, with all the inevitable taxes that implies, the culture of debt rather than savings, and the withholding and diminishment of education through all walks of life in America is the policy behind the tools of our re-enslavement. The risk now is higher and more widespread than in the 1790’s when women, slaves and native Americans were already discounted capital. Now the government and the business sector have us all targeted as potential “capital” instead of unhappy black men caught like animals and transported like capital with acceptable losses at 1/3 of the cargo. 

 

And the only thing that can stop them is a reversal of the institutionalization of ignorance. We have accepted too long the notion that we don’t know anything but that’s OK nobody else does either. We should all know more than we do, We should all treat life as an opportunity to educate, train and better ourselves. If we do, then everyone wins, including the business sector which needs the rising prosperous middle class to do business, whether it is here or abroad. Why don’t they know that? Because like you, they are just people trying to get the most they can right now. That’s human nature. That is the American way.

 

Treat every index with suspicion. Test all information against your own anecdotal experience. And don’t let anyone tell you they know more about your life than you do.

The stock and trade of all financial institutions is the same: trust. When they fail to tell the truth, when they actually actively deceive the public, and when they actively participate in a worldwide scam leading to the mortgage meltdown, trust is eroded, perhaps beyond repair.

Now trust even between financial institutions is at an all-time low and the “objective” third parties upon which banks rely to set lending standards and judge their strategies are in doubt, to say the least. Libor, the interbank rate published in London in an index used worldwide is under close scrutiny because there are many questions of how it could be so wrong in the face of reality. Moody’s and other rating agencies have been lutred by profit motive and outright corruption into negotiating ratings instead of setting them through objective analysis. 

Obama’s declaration that truth will be the standard of his Presidential administration is thus being greeted by even the most conservative pro-business, pro-bank publications with a mixture of hope and trepidation. can he really do it? Yes, if he means it. AND by all accounts, it appears as though he does indeed mean it.

That confidence in the U.S. dollar is at an all-time low is no surprise. But when countries start propping up currencies that are barely on the radar, you know that central bankers are thinking that the U.S. government is not doing enough to shore up the fundamentals of its economy. This translates to a lack of confidence that the dollar will recover. Like the price of oil headed inexorably toward $200 per barrel, the dollar is seen headed inexorably downward. This kind of thinking leads to self-fulfilling prophecy, so it needs to be taken seriously. 

The plain fact is that we have $500 trillion in derivative securities that are treated, for the most part, as cash equivalents. In the face of a half-gig behemoth of private sector money supply, central bankers understand that their impact on monetary policy, money supply, credit, and economic growth is virtually out of reach. Like it or not, economic policy is in the hands of the private sector now.

More pretense of regulation from a corrupt government will produce less rather than more instability in the financial sector. Government is providing cover for wrongdoers rather than relief for everyone. 

The dangers are obvious. The inevitable conclusion of this paradigm shift can already be seen: a massive shift in the distribution of wealth, with its attendant death grip on government policy and action.

The role of government — to be the referee in assuring a fair playing field — has been subverted beyond recognition.

The tangible results are that millions of homes are being foreclosed, tens of millions of people are being hit with economic losses, and despite even the calls of the conservative Economist magazine for a U.S. “Federal effort to streamline the states’ convoluted foreclosure laws” nothing has emerged thus far.

We are aware and I have assisted in the writing of emergency rules of civil procedure for foreclosures from initiation of proceedings through mediation and judgment. These rules have been submitted to Nevada, Florida and Arizona thus far. The Courts are warming to the idea, but it is likely that a uniform approach will not be adopted, leaving the country in a morass of hoops to jump through before borrowers and lenders and investors can be brought to the table to put a stop to the downward slide. 

Under normal conditions, we would be the first to scream for better regulation, more enforcement and criminal prosecution arising from the massive fraud that killed the residential housing market, and severely damaged the rest of the credit markets worldwide. But we are of the opinion that this is an emergency that transcends normal government response. It is akin to the emergency of war where we are fighting for our very survival. Amnesty for every participant on the investor-lender side and on the borrower loan origination side is essential even if it gives a break to “speculators” and criminal minds that irresponsibly launched this plan to nowhere.

Only then will we demonstrate to central bankers around the world that we are serious about this crisis. Only then will they lose momentum is distancing themselves from the dollar.

Overseas banks save a currency
Commentary: A useful game plan if the dollar really hits the skids
LONDON (MarketWatch) – It’s official — overseas central banks stepped in Friday to prop up a beleaguered currency that’s been weighed down by an out-of-control financial sector and an economy on the rocks.
Sounds like the U.S. dollar, but actually, it’s the Iceland krona. See related story.
The central banks of Norway, Sweden and Denmark will each provide up to 500 million euros that the Central Bank of Iceland can swap for krona.
Of course, any central bank intervention to prop up the dollar would have to be done on a far larger scale than chucking in a bit more than $2 billion.
So understandably, the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank reportedly have kept their ammunition so far to words and arm twisting. See related story.
And U.S. interest rates are just a touch lower than what’s on offer in Iceland — 2.25% compared to 15.5%.
But it’s worth noting that the intervention has worked, on the day at least – the currency is up over 4% against the euro.
If nothing else, the move by the Scandinavian central banks is a game plan that can be dusted off if the dollar really goes into meltdown mode.

There are lots of things we do as human beings that are counterproductive in the sense of preventing ourselves from getting what we want. One of them is racism. Whether you harbor some small or large negative feeling toward one race or another consider this:

Negative red lining: In order to carry off the largest economic scam in history, bankers and Wall Street had to find a population that was deprived of sufficient education to know about the world, to know how to conduct their affairs legally, and to be able to reason things so they could make an informed decision. 

It was obvious where they were going to find this demographic: (1) people who spoke no English and (2) black people, especially from the deep South. They were perfect targets and it all went “swimmingly” with everybody touting their new equity in their modest homes as though they were watching the ticker on the New York Stock Exchange.

People refinanced to take more money out of their house like an ATM machine, and they spent the money. But the value wasn’t really there, and neither is the income for original targets and then the secondary “refi” targets who got caught up in the whole frenzy. And now millions of lives are being uprooted, millions of jobs are being lost, and millions of people are stuck in retirement with insufficient income because of failed investments by their pension funds, their mutual funds et al..

You see, it is the poor in our country who are exposed, who are vulnerable. They are the ones that predators attack with tactics they could never get away with elsewhere. But the effects, if the predators succeed on a large scale, are felt by everyone. And they are felt deeply.

And the income isn’t there either for all the individuals, institutions, banks, government entities, corporations and other invetors who bought mortgage backed securities that were, for the most part, not worth the paper they were written on.

And the income isn’t there for people who earn a living wage but now find that it isn’t a living anymore because the value of the dollars they earn is also not worth the paper it is written on.

And so when these poor people protest that they were treated unfairly, the racist in us tends to turn a less sympathetic ear to them than to someone “like us.” That is where racism costs us.

By waiting for the shoe to drop on us instead of protecting those who could not protect themselves, by depriving people of the education they need to be able to avoid these predators, we have now created the worst possible outcome: nobody in the entire world trusts the United States policy on money and finance. And we lost our moral high ground to influence the policies of other nations. 

And the benefits that we have long expected from our dominance of world finance is fast vanishing as the dollars we issued have turned into vast sweeping IOU’s to countries we could not imagine would have such power over us — China, S. Korea etc.

That Obama has come this far is amazing, even astonishing. Especially in view of the secrets we harbor, the driftwood of hundreds of years of shameful history and rationalization of that history. Notwithstanding all we have learned there are many among us who do not understand that we are wasting precious time and human resources when we withhold empathy, when we withhold funding for education, when we flee from those who are different.

How much money has been lost in home equity due to white flight? It was whites that lost the equity!

How much time and productivity did the South lose because they refused to allow blacks to participate in their economy or in education — even right after the civil war when it was ONLY the blacks that knew how to run the farms and plantations. 

How much innovation did we lose by red lining employment opportunities in the North?

How many Einsteins have we completely missed amongst the black and Latin populations?

 

Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause
By Kevin Merida
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008; A01

 

Danielle Ross was alone in an empty room at the Obama campaign headquarters in Kokomo, Ind., a cellphone in one hand, a voter call list in the other. She was stretched out on the carpeted floor wearing laceless sky-blue Converses, stories from the trail on her mind. It was the day before Indiana’s primary, and she had just been chased by dogs while canvassing in a Kokomo suburb. But that was not the worst thing to occur since she postponed her sophomore year atMiddle Tennessee State University, in part to hopscotch America stumping for Barack Obama.

Here’s the worst: In Muncie, a factory town in the east-central part of Indiana, Ross and her cohorts were soliciting support for Obama at malls, on street corners and in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and they ran into “a horrible response,” as Ross put it, a level of anti-black sentiment that none of them had anticipated.

“The first person I encountered was like, ‘I’ll never vote for a black person,’ ” recalled Ross, who is white and just turned 20. “People just weren’t receptive.”

For all the hope and excitement Obama’s candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed — and unreported — this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They’ve been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they’ve endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can’t fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.

The contrast between the large, adoring crowds Obama draws at public events and the gritty street-level work to win votes is stark. The candidate is largely insulated from the mean-spiritedness that some of his foot soldiers deal with away from the media spotlight.

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: “It wasn’t pretty.” She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn’t possibly vote for Obama and concluded: “Hang that darky from a tree!”

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across “a lot of racism” when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: “White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people.”

Obama campaign officials say such incidents are isolated, that the experience of most volunteers and staffers has been overwhelmingly positive.

The campaign released this statement in response to questions about encounters with racism: “After campaigning for 15 months in nearly all 50 states, Barack Obama and our entire campaign have been nothing but impressed and encouraged by the core decency, kindness, and generosity of Americans from all walks of life. The last year has only reinforced Senator Obama’s view that this country is not as divided as our politics suggest.”

Campaign field work can be an exercise in confronting the fears, anxieties and prejudices of voters. Veterans of the civil rights movement know what this feels like, as do those who have been involved in battles over busing, immigration or abortion. But through the Obama campaign, some young people are having their first experience joining a cause and meeting cruel reaction.

On Election Day in Kokomo, a group of black high school students were holding up Obama signs along U.S. 31, a major thoroughfare. As drivers cruised by, a number of them rolled down their windows and yelled out a common racial slur for African Americans, according to Obama campaign staffers.

Frederick Murrell, a black Kokomo High School senior, was not there but heard what happened. He was more disappointed than surprised. During his own canvassing for Obama, Murrell said, he had “a lot of doors slammed” in his face. But taunting teenagers on a busy commercial strip in broad daylight? “I was very shocked at first,” Murrell said. “Then again, I wasn’t, because we have a lot of racism here.”

The bigotry has gone beyond words. In Vincennes, the Obama campaign office was vandalized at 2 a.m. on the eve of the primary, according to police. A large plate-glass window was smashed, an American flag stolen. Other windows were spray-painted with references to Obama’s controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and other political messages: “Hamas votes BHO” and “We don’t cling to guns or religion. Goddamn Wright.”

Ray McCormick was notified of the incident at about 2:45 a.m. A farmer and conservationist, McCormick had erected a giant billboard on a major highway on behalf of Farmers for Obama. He also was housing the Obama campaign worker manning the office. When McCormick arrived at the office, about two hours before he was due out of bed to plant corn, he grabbed his camera and wanted to alert the media. “I thought, this is a big deal.” But he was told Obama campaign officials didn’t want to make a big deal of the incident. McCormick took photos anyway and distributed some.

“The pictures represent what we are breaking through and overcoming,” he said. As McCormick, who is white, sees it, Obama is succeeding despite these incidents. Later, there would be bomb threats to three Obama campaign offices in Indiana, including the one in Vincennes, according to campaign sources.

Obama has not spoken much about racism during this campaign. He has sought to emphasize connections among Americans rather than divisions. He shrugged off safety concerns that led to early Secret Service protection and has told black senior citizens who worry that racists will do him harm: Don’t fret. Earlier in the campaign, a 68-year-old woman in Carson City, Nev., voiced concern that the country was not ready to elect an African American president.

“Will there be some folks who probably won’t vote for me because I am black? Of course,” Obama said, “just like there may be somebody who won’t vote for Hillary because she’s a woman or wouldn’t vote for John Edwards because they don’t like his accent. But the question is, ‘Can we get a majority of the American people to give us a fair hearing?’ ”

Obama has won 30 of 50 Democratic contests so far, the kind of nationwide electoral triumph no black candidate has ever realized. That he is on the brink of capturing the Democratic nomination, some say, is a testament to how far the country has progressed in overcoming racism and evidence of Obama’s skill at bridging divides.

Obama has won five of 12 primaries in which black voters made up less than 10 percent of the electorate, and caucuses in states such as Idaho and Wyoming that are overwhelmingly white. But exit polls show he has struggled to attract white voters who didn’t attend college and earn less than $50,000 a year. Today, he and Hillary Clinton square off in West Virginia, a state where she is favored and where the votes of working-class whites will again be closely watched.

For the most part, Obama campaign workers say, the 2008 election cycle has been exhilarating. On the ground, the Obama campaign is being driven by youngsters, many of whom are imbued with an optimism undeterred by racial intolerance. “We’ve grown up in a different world,” says Danielle Ross. Field offices are staffed by 20-somethings who hold positions — state director, regional field director, field organizer — that are typically off limits to newcomers to presidential politics.

Gillian Bergeron, 23, was in charge of a five-county regional operation in northeastern Pennsylvania. The oldest member of her team was 27. At Scranton’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade, some of the green Obama signs distributed by staffers were burned along the parade route. That was the first signal that this wasn’t exactly Obama country. There would be others.

In a letter to the editor published in a local paper, Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball explained his support of Hillary Clinton this way: “Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don’t know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can’t convince me that some of that didn’t rub off on him.

“No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office.”

Obama’s campaign workers have grown wearily accustomed to the lies about the candidate’s supposed radical Muslim ties and lack of patriotism. But they are sometimes astonished when public officials such as Ball or others representing the campaign of their opponent traffic in these falsehoods.

Karen Seifert, a volunteer from New York, was outside of the largest polling location in Lackawanna County, Pa., on primary day when she was pressed by a Clinton volunteer to explain her backing of Obama. “I trust him,” Seifert replied. According to Seifert, the woman pointed to Obama’s face on Seifert’s T-shirt and said: “He’s a half-breed and he’s a Muslim. How can you trust that?”

* * *

Pollsters have found it difficult to accurately measure racial attitudes, as some voters are unwilling to acknowledge the role that race plays in their thinking. But some are not. Susan Dzimian, a Clinton supporter who owns residential properties, said outside a polling location in Kokomo that race was a factor in how she viewed Obama. “I think if it was somebody other than him, I’d accept it,” she said of a black candidate. “If Colin Powell had run, I would be willing to accept him.”

The previous evening, Dondra Ewing was driving the neighborhoods of Kokomo, looking to turn around voters like Dzimian. Ewing, 47, is a chain-smoking middle school guidance counselor, a black single mother of two and one of the most fiercely vigilant Obama volunteers in Kokomo, which was once a Ku Klux Klan stronghold. On July 4, 1923, Kokomo hosted the largest Klan gathering in history — an estimated 200,000 followers flocked to a local park. But these are not the 1920s, and Ewing believes she can persuade anybody to back Obama. Her mother, after all, was the first African American elected at-large to the school board in a community that is 10 percent black.

Kokomo, population 46,000, is another hard-hit Midwestern industrial town stung by layoffs. Longtimers wistfully remember the glory years of Continental Steel and speak mournfully about the jobs shipped overseas. Kokomo Sanitary Pottery, which made bathroom sinks and toilets, shut down a couple of months ago and took with it 150 jobs.

Aaron Roe, 23, was mowing lawns at a local cemetery recently, lamenting his $8-an-hour job with no benefits. He had earned a community college degree as an industrial electrician, but learned there was no electrical work to be found for someone with his experience, which is to say none. Politics wasn’t on his mind; frustration was. If he were to vote, it would not be for Obama, he said. “I just got a funny feeling about him,” Roe said, a feeling he couldn’t specify, except to say race wasn’t a part of it. “Race ain’t nothing,” said Roe, who is white. “It’s how they’re going to help the country.”

The Aaron Roes are exactly who Dondra Ewing was after: people with funny feelings.

At the Bradford Run Apartments, she found Robert Cox, a retiree who spent 30 years working for an electronics manufacturer making computer chips. He was in his suspenders, grilling shish kebab, which he had never eaten. “Something new,” Cox said, recommended by his son who was visiting from Colorado.

Ewing was selling him hard on Obama. “There are more than two families that can run the United States of America,” she said, “and their names aren’t Bush and Clinton.”

“Yeah, I know, I know,” Cox said, remaining noncommittal.

He opened the grill and peeked at the kebabs. “It’s not his race, because I got real good friends and all that,” Cox continued. “If anything would keep him from getting elected, it would be his name. It might turn off some older people.”

Like him?

“No, older than me,” said Cox, 66.

Ewing kept talking, until finally Cox said, “Probably Obama,” when asked directly how he would vote.

As she walked away, Ewing said: “I think we got him.”

But truthfully, she wasn’t feeling so sure.

Staff writer Peter Slevin and polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

Virtually ALL of the the decisions concerning money supply and “regulation” are being made in the private sector which is devoted to one thing by mission and by intent: transfer of wealth to the big dogs in the private sector. This clearly government function, as specifically expressed in the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned by government and usurped by the private sector.

By allowing tainted money into the political system, actions that had been plainly illegal, immoral and unethical have become a way of life, legalized by laws passed to satisfy legislator’s obligations to lobbyists. Obama’s call for reigning back the forces of money from the private sector is a call to arms and a call for alarms — to regulate and disclose the billions of dollars spent by credit/financial industries, oil and gas, coal, drugs, healthcare and crime (yes, crime because close examination shows that some private sectors will ONLY make money if the jails are full).

The purpose of government — to be the referree between capital and labor in a market allowing forces of supply, demand and innovation to determine outcome — has been abandoned and must be re-asserted. If not, we become a third world country where the rich live in electrified bunkers with their own security staff and the rest of the population remains hopeless poor and in debt. The risk of violent revolution, food riots and knee-jerk policies generated from fear or anger will be the rule rather than the exception. This is hardly the result intended by the framers of our constitution.

As the comments indicate, the Fed policy-making apparatus is in tatters.

 

  • It lowers the Fed overnight rate and interest rates go up — something that was thought impossible by many people. 
  • It confronts hyper-inflation with a mixture of mentioning how serious the issue is and then lowers rates again, which we all know means increasing the money supply and increasing inflation. But then lenders still refuse to give loans to small business, homeowners and other key parts of the credit cycle that spur the economy. 
  • The plain fact is that the Fed is not having much effect at all on anything. 
  • It missed the opportunity to regulate and increase its influence to thwart the bubble in housing because politically it was expedient to do so in a Repiublican administration. 

 

We all pay the price as the economy and our society commences the wrenching process of remaking itself with a solid foundation of productivity, more even distribution of purchasing power, less impulse purchasing, more saving, and the prospects of slower growth and recession here and abroad.

The FED is diminished, probably permanently. Up until now nobody has addressed the issue head-on that neither the Fed nor the U.S. Treasury, nor the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are having much impact on money supply, interest rates, prices or economic growth.

Virtually ALL of the the decisions concerning money supply and “regulation” are being made in the private sector which is devoted to one thing by mission and by intent: transfer of wealth to the big dogs in the private sector. 

 

Pianalto: Fed’s strategy compatible with low inflation rate
LONDON (MarketWatch) — Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Sandra Pianalto said Tuesday that inflation remains a top risk to the economic outlook, but that the Federal Reserve’s rate-cutting strategy likely wouldn’t stoke inflationary pressures. In a speech prepared for delivery in Paris, Pianalto said she finds herself in a “challenging environment” as a policymaker. “While even the core price measures in the United States are rising somewhat faster than I would prefer, and inflation presents a key risk to my outlook, I believe that the Federal Reserve’s policy strategy remains compatible with a low and stable inflation rate,” she said. Pianalto said it was important to distinguish between inflation and relative-price pressures. End of Story