The OB Media Rundown for 5/13/12

 ’Seize and pay tribute:’ Lessons for America from recent finance capital conquests in Europe

Finance today is the means of conquering a country and getting what in the past took an army. Financial conquest is how you shift the taxes onto the population to pay the financial sector, how you load a population down with debt and make a population pay interest and amortization and penalties on debt service, you make a population pay for schooling instead of getting it free or a low price as used to be the case, you make a population take on a lifetime of debt in order to get a home that used to be affordable, you make the governments go into debt for the banks, so that in Europe governments can’t-don’t have a central bank to monetize their own deficits but actually have to borrow money from banks. You achieve-you essentially empty out an economy, and you take its economic surplus financially without an army, just by trying to promote what really is junk economics and junk politics, if the economics of Rubinomics in America under Clinton and Rubenomics in America under George Bush, and now with a vengeance under Obama-.

100,000 march in Spain over austerity

At least 100,000 Spaniards angered by grim economic prospects and the political handling of the international financial crisis have turned out for street demonstrations in the country’s cities, marking the one-year anniversary of a movement that inspired similar pressure groups in other countries.

Deconstructing strident pro-austerity bias in American journalists’ economic coverage

The reporters’ adoption of the German perspective leads them to emulate Berlin’s refusal to consider the Greek perspective.  Instead, the reporters’ adopt the German framing of the issue.  That framing is that the Greeks are inexplicably “refusing to abide by the terms of the country’s international loan agreement.”  The idea that the Greek people should continue to take the Berlin elevator that has plunged their nation into a great depression because their disgraced leaders were coerced into agreeing to a deal that is destroying their nation is insane.

Democracy is all about throwing out leaders who have disgraced themselves, crushed the nation’s economy, and cravenly taken orders from a hostile foreign power.  The Greeks have done just that.  Why would anyone expect the Greeks to continue to follow a suicidal economic policy imposed by Germany?  Berlin and the NYT reporters share the bizarre belief that if your coerced leaders sign a suicide pact you have a duty to commit suicide because – a deal is a deal.

230,000 jobless Americans lost their unemployment insurance this weekend

More than 230,000 jobless Americans will lose their unemployment insurance by this weekend as reductions in the federal program that provides extended benefits to the long-term unemployed take broader effect.

The new round of reductions is hitting eight states this month, meaning that about 400,000 long-term unemployed Americans in 27 states will have been cut off of the federal government’s extended unemployment benefits program this year, according to an analysis by the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for the unemployed.

The cuts stem from a congressional agreement this year that will reduce the maximum duration of unemployment benefits from 99 weeks to 79 weeks as the nation’s jobless rate declines.

The real debate is not whether the US economy has socialist attributes, but that we have a choice about which form of socialism to employ

The US is a socialist country, because to some degree or another, the government has always got involved in the economy: the railroads, the Homestead Act, the power grid, the interstate highway system, and the internet. These are products of the government creating markets or meeting demand, and then getting out of the way to allow capitalism to work. Most in the US wouldn’t call this socialism, however. They would call it good governance.

That the US has shepherded the economy in one way or another exemplifies its economy’s mixed nature. It’s mostly capitalist, but partly socialist when the profit-motive is detrimental to human need. The best example is Medicare. The older you are, the less insurable you are. In a free market, in which government coercion is completely absent from the exchange of commodities and securities, the elderly would die sooner. That’s how markets work, and that’s why Lyndon Johnson didn’t want the elderly to be at the mercy of the markets.

So far, we’ve talked about a faux socialism and a real socialism. One is defined as socialism by those to the right of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. The other serves human needs, not the potentially dehumanising demands of shareholders. But there is yet another kind of socialism that libertarian Republicans approve of. Socialism for corporations and the rich.

Budget Cuts Hurt Washington State’s Response to Whooping Cough Outbreak

Whooping cough, or pertussis, a highly infectious respiratory disease once considered doomed by science, has struck Washington State this spring with a severity that health officials say could surpass the toll of any year since the 1940s, before a vaccine went into wide use.

Although no deaths have been reported so far this year, the state has declared an epidemic and public health officials say the numbers are staggering: 1,284 cases through early May, the most in at least three decades and 10 times last year’s total at this time, 128.

The response to the epidemic has been hampered by the recession, which has left state and local health departments on the front lines of defense weakened by years of sustained budget cuts.

How Sen. Scott Brown screwed college students

Republican Senator Scott Brown’s vote to allow the interest on college loans to double illustrates perfectly why Brown is a clever politician, but a rotten senator.

Brown’s vote puts the screws to the nation’s 7 million college students who rely on the 3.4 percent Stafford loans to finance their increasingly expensive educations.

One hundred and seventy seven thousand of those students are in Massachusetts. When the federal subsidies on those loans expire on July 1, the interest rates will jump to 6.8 percent. Studies show that Massachusetts ranks 12th in the nation in terms of the debt graduating college seniors carry, with an average obligation of $25,541.

From California to Quebec, Students Fight Tuition Hikes

Though high-quality, low-cost education is fast becoming a relic, militant student protests are very much alive. This year marked the first time students in the world-renowned University of California system contributed more to their education than the state, a fact that has been met with demonstrations, boardroom occupations and a detailed proposal for free up-front tuition to be financed through repayments proportional to students’ income after leaving school.

While activists in the United States have struggled to stem the tide of disinvestment in public education, students in Quebec have sustained the longest student strike in the province’s history – and they are beginning to win results.

Jefferson’s lifelong dream – The GOP praises the founding father as a small-government champion, but he saw the value of investing in education

“The only security of all is in a free press.”  Thomas Jefferson wrote these words to the Marquis de Lafayette at the age of 80. The reason Jefferson lauded a free press was that he wished, in tense political times, for the U.S. to function as a deliberative democracy, in which an increasingly better-educated citizenry monitored the policy decisions of its elected representatives and judged whether or not they deserved to remain in office.

A better-educated citizenry. That was Jefferson’s mantra, and it should be ours, too. Republicans in Congress have claimed Jefferson as their man, time and again quoting him as a champion of small government. One of their favorites lines is, “If it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution,” it would be “taking from the Federal Government the power of borrowing.” The Jefferson they do not pay attention to is the one whose lifelong dream was a well-funded public education system – the Jefferson who spent his post-presidential retirement years creating a beautiful public university in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson asked no less a figure than U.S. Attorney General William Wirt, notably the son of a Maryland tavern-keeper, to be its president.  He understand that personal growth and national strength were best served by lifting up ordinary folks.

How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform

Two years ago, when he signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, President Barack Obama bragged that he’d dealt a crushing blow to the extravagant financial corruption that had caused the global economic crash in 2008. “These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” the president told an adoring crowd in downtown D.C. on July 21st, 2010. “In history.”

This was supposed to be the big one. At 2,300 pages, the new law ostensibly rewrote the rules for Wall Street. It was going to put an end to predatory lending in the mortgage markets, crack down on hidden fees and penalties in credit contracts, and create a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to safeguard ordinary consumers. Big banks would be banned from gambling with taxpayer money, and a new set of rules would limit speculators from making the kind of crazy-ass bets that cause wild spikes in the price of food and energy. There would be no more AIGs, and the world would never again face a financial apocalypse when a bank like Lehman Brothers went bankrupt.

Most importantly, even if any of that fiendish crap ever did happen again, Dodd-Frank guaranteed we wouldn’t be expected to pay for it. “The American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes,” Obama promised. “There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period.”

Two years later, Dodd-Frank is groaning on its deathbed. The giant reform bill turned out to be like the fish reeled in by Hemingway’s Old Man – no sooner caught than set upon by sharks that strip it to nothing long before it ever reaches the shore. In a furious below-the-radar effort at gutting the law – roundly despised by Washington’s Wall Street paymasters – a troop of water-carrying Eric Cantor Republicans are speeding nine separate bills through the House, all designed to roll back the few genuinely toothy portions left in Dodd-Frank. With the Quislingian covert assistance of Democrats, both in Congress and in the White House, those bills could pass through the House and the Senate with little or no debate, with simple floor votes – by a process usually reserved for things like the renaming of post offices or a nonbinding resolution celebrating Amelia Earhart’s birthday.

Casino Capitalism: JP Morgan Chief Dimond Doesn’t Know If Company Broke the Law after $2 billion in losses

If you can find another CEO answer a point-blank question about whether or not their company broke the law with, essentially, “I don’t know, the regulators should come in and find out,” you win a cookie. That’s an especially interesting angle to take for Jamie Dimon, who has spent the last two years telling the regulators to get off the backs of the financial industry so they can go ahead and master the universe.

The legal issues stem from disclosures and statements made to investors about the “Fail Whale” trades before the inevitable admission of losses. They have little to do, as far as I can tell, with the trades themselves, which nobody contests are legal at the moment, and which sadly probably would be legal under the Proposed Volcker rule, which allows the very kind of portfolio hedging that the legislative history of the Volcker rule would seem to prevent.

New map of best and worst economic mobility in America resembles an old Civil War map [hint: red states have the least mobility]

Screen shot 2012 05 12 at 1.30.50 PM3 300x182 The OB Media Rundown for 5/13/12

Welcome to Economic Mobility of the States. This interactive tool captures the findings of the first analysis of Americans’ economic mobility-their ability to move up or down the earnings ladder-on a state level. The study investigates Americans’ mobility prospects during their prime working years-the 10-year span between ages 35-39 and 45-49.

“Breathing While Latino” Laws Boom for Private Prison Profits

Few realize that this push to privatize prison management or the actual prisons started in 1990 with the CCA and its first contract with the federal government to manage federal immigration detainees – many who have not committed any crimes other than being in this country illegally. From the nonprofit Detention Watch Network:

Although the number of privately managed immigration detention beds has grown drastically since 1996, corporations have actually dominated the field for more than two decades. In fact a contract between the INS [now defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service] and the newly formed Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) gave birth to the private prison industry itself in 1983. Since then, dozens of other companies have emerged to compete for government contracts not only in detention operations, but in peripheral industries such as prison construction and correctional officer services.

Domestic Oil Production Is Irrelevant To Oil Prices

Gasoline is made of oil, so it sounds to a lot of people like if the United States produced more oil domestically that gasoline would get a lot chaper. But a new CBO report on gasoline prices contains this nice chart which shows that it’s not so. Canada is a net oil exporter, Japan produces no oil, and the United States is a middle case. But it’s Canada, not the US, that’s in the middle case for retail gasoline prices. Why?

The issue is that oil is a globally traded commodity, so oil isn’t really any more expensive in importing countries than in exporting countries. International price differences are driven by the fact that some countries have high taxes on gasoline, some (like the U.S.) have low ones, and others have subsidies.

Insight: America’s hatred of fat hurts obesity fight

The stigmatization of obesity begins in preschool: Children as young as 3 tell scientists studying the phenomenon that overweight people are mean, stupid, ugly and have few friends. It intensifies in adulthood, when substantial numbers of Americans say obese people are self-indulgent, lazy and unable to control their appetites. And it translates into poorer job prospects for the obese compared with their slim peers.

It may be the nation’s last, accepted form of prejudice. But the stigmatization of obesity has repercussions beyond the pain it inflicts on its targets: It threatens to impede efforts to fight the obesity epidemic.

“As long as we have this belief that obese people are lazy and lacking in discipline, it will be hard to get support for policies that change the environment, which are likely to have a much larger impact than trying to change individuals,” said psychologist Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

That barrier to action is becoming clearer as the nation grapples with the costs of having two-thirds of adults overweight or obese.

‘They Think We Are Animals’: How America’s Police State Controls Black People

Once the smoking guns cool and the body is buried, mainstream media repeat the same words, “accident” or “tragic.” But we, who are black or Latino or politicized, hear the slurs and threats shouted in the background. Progressive news show Democracy Now reported that when cops banged on Chamberlain’s door and he told them he was fine, one shouted, “I don’t give a fuck nigger!” In 2011, cops created a Facebook page to complain about working the West Indian Day Parade, on it they called the black partiers “animals” and “savages,” and one wrote, “Drop a bomb and wipe them all out.” Repeatedly, journalists or lawyers smuggle out of the Blue Code of Silence evidence of police using racist, animal imagery to describe the very people they are supposed to serve.

Mitt Romney Does Not Care for Barack Obama’s Disgraceful Flip-Flopping

Screen shot 2012 05 12 at 2.29.52 PM2 233x300 The OB Media Rundown for 5/13/12

Sad Mitt Romney is so jealous of all the thank-you notes and the hot piles of gay dollar bills that President Popular has gotten ever since he belatedly admitted that he thinks gay people should be able to get married. Sad Mitt Romney is not as tragically lame as he appears to be on this issue, okay? Sad Mitt Romney responds that while he is not a fan of gay marriage, he – wait for it – sometimes talks to his gay friends, many of whom own children:

After elections, Greek poll shows anti-bailout leftists gaining even more support

The leftist anti-bailout SYRIZA party has gained support since an inconclusive election on Sunday to become Greece’s most popular party, the first opinion poll to be published after the vote showed on Thursday.

Backing for SYRIZA stood at 23.8 percent of respondents, with the pro-bailout conservative New Democracy trailing at 17.4 percent, according to the survey conducted on May 8-9 by polling firm Marc for the Alpha television station.

The May 6 election left pro- and anti-bailout parties almost evenly divided and deadlocked over how to form a government.

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