Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

(Updated) Ron Paul calls BP victim compensation a ‘PR stunt’

Posted in BP, corporations, deregulation, environment, offshore drilling, politics, regulation, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 24, 2010

* Updated the headline: I originally wrote that Rand Paul said the following statement. It was actually his equally oblivious father, Ron. The rest of the article is really about Rand’s previous statements that illustrated how disengaged he is from average Americans, and his sense of entitlement that probably comes from his awful dad, whose terribleness is demonstrated in the quote.

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rand Paul turned out to be a DNC plant.

BP’s $20 billion escrow fund is a “PR stunt” that came about through a “suspicious” process, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said Tuesday night.

Though Paul didn’t go as far as fellow Texan Rep. Joe Barton (R), who called the fund a “shakedown,” he nevertheless said the “process is sort of suspicious.”

“They have agreed to this and this is sort of a PR stunt as far as I’m concerned,” Paul told Fox News. “BP had already been making a lot of payments to people who had been injured.”

He said this… on television…while the crisis is still happening.

This follows Rand’s comments about unemployed people being a bunch of lazy shit sacks, who are too “picky” and insist on passing up all kinds of sweet, sweet employment opportunities (like the jobs that don’t offer benefits or a living wage).

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The nation’s other non-BP disasters

Surely, the BP disaster deserves the obsessive coverage it has received (thus far). But at the risk of missing some other important stories, I want to briefly address two somewhat overlooked catastrophes – one that has already taken place, and one that possesses the potential to be horrific, but we still have time to stop.

Many Americans would be surprised to hear there’s another domestic oil spill – in Salt Late City. (via)

Chevron says a hole the size of a quarter caused their pipeline to rupture around 33,000 gallons of oil into the creek.

The manager of Chevron’s refinery in the Salt Lake City area said Monday that the company believes the rupture in the 10-inch pipeline was caused by an electrical arc that traveled through a metal fence post. Mark Sullivan says the arc acted like an electrical torch, causing the hole.

Sullivan couldn’t say how long the pipeline was leaking before Chevron was notified of the problem Saturday morning. But Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says residents could smell the odor of petroleum overnight Friday.

The spill has coated about 300 birds at area creeks and ponds, and the oil is possibly threatening an endangered fish.

Chairman of the Salt Lake City Council,  J.T. Martin, calls the event a horrible tragedy.

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Contractors raking in mad cash in wake of BP disaster

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, corporations, deregulation, environment, offshore drilling, regulation by allisonkilkenny on June 12, 2010

A rescue worker captures one oil-covered brown pelican off the coast of Louisiana. AP Photo

God, this is depressing. The industrial sector is just about extinct, corporations are fleeing the country to exploit cheap foreign labor, unions are gasping their last breaths, and 6.8 million Americans have been unemployed 27 weeks, or longer (the numbers are higher in places like Detriot, which has 30 percent unemployment, but the media doesn’t really focus on that reality).

But there is good news! Well, kind of. If your trade is oil spill clean-up, you’re experiencing a bonanza right now.

Hundreds of contractors and subcontractors are doing jobs both complex and mundane, whether it’s building the robots that BP sends 5,000 feet underwater to capture live video of the broken wellhead or providing boats to skim oil from the water’s surface. And then there is the cottage industry that has sprung up overnight to support the 24,600 cleanup workers, catering their meals, hauling away their trash and supplying portable toilets.

“There’s money flowing in the streets,” said Michael E. Hoffman, director of research at Wunderlich Securities, a Memphis-based brokerage firm.

America may be losing the race to evolve technology, and alternative fuels, but at least we still lead the way in creating horrible catastrophes that our unemployed masses can then toil to clean up.

Ever the barometer of compassionate altruism, Wall Street immediately rushed to figure out who would be the winners of the BP disaster. The financial sector doesn’t price superfluous biological waste like sea turtles, or oceans because things like endangered pelicans don’t make the right people money. However, Wall Street does know how to price stuff like hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants.

Within two weeks of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, the stock price of Clean Harbors, a Boston-based hazardous-waste management company, shot up more than 20 percent. During the same period, Nalco Holding Co., which makes the chemical dispersant Corexit, rose to nearly a year high.

Sure, Nalco, made a killing during the disaster. It helps that one of its board members, Rodney F. Chase, is a former BP board member. That cozy relationship provides Nalco with unique access to the big business of oil spill cleanup. The Wapost article doesn’t mention that stuff (why get messy?) but it does include this nugget:

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BP stonewalling efforts to get better oil volcano damage estimate

Posted in BP, deregulation, energy, environment, offshore drilling, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 9, 2010

A bird covered in oil flails in the surf at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast Thursday, June 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The other day, I was discussing the “branding” of the BP disaster with a friend. Calling this catastrophe a “spill” seems like a laughable understatement, and my phrasing (the “oil geyser”) wasn’t really catchy. A few weeks ago, the term “oil volcano” emerged, I think because it was first used by Rachel Maddow, and I believe it captures the severity of the situation.

So this thing, the oil volcano, has been pumping thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean every single day. That much is undeniable. BP can’t approach the media and say, “Epic disaster is all over, folks!” because there are cameras (now HD video) down there, filming the whole thing.

The company attempted to use dispersants (hundreds of thousands of gallons of the toxic stuff) in order to coagulate the oil and sink it to the bottom, conveniently hiding the true toll of the oil volcano from the world. Except, that didn’t work entirely, and some endangered birds got snagged in the sludge.

Literally, there is nothing BP can now do in order to mend its public image except lie. And lie they have. Tony Hayward blamed workers’ illnesses on food poisoning instead of acknowledging exposure to oil fumes and dispersants tend to make individuals sick. BP denied the existence of those massive underwater oil plumes. You know, the ones NOAA just confirmed exist.

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Canadian government dumping toxic waste in Arctic

Posted in deregulation, environment, world by allisonkilkenny on May 30, 2010

Colin Horgan follows up on an article I wrote about BP racing up to Canada in order to get northern legislators to deregulate their industry (because that worked out super well in America). This time, the villain is the Canadian government itself.

After two years and a request under the Access to Information Act, the Canadian Press has revealed that there have been numerous toxic spills and dumps in the Arctic, and that “one of the most frequent offenders is the federal government.”

The CP report continues:

The analysis found 260 spills in the North over five years. There were 137 spills in the Northwest Territories, 82 in Nunavut and 41 in the Yukon.

The biggest spill happened in Nunavut two years ago. Residents of Hall Beach marked Canada Day in 2008 with a dike failure that released 13.5 million litres of sewage in their remote hamlet.

Environment Canada says sewage seeped out of a lagoon into a wetlands area. The sewage didn’t make it into any bodies of water where fish could be affected.

[…]

Some spills took weeks or even months to clean up, while others were dealt with in a day or less.

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BP: The media’s Katrina

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, deregulation, media, offshore drilling by allisonkilkenny on May 30, 2010

President Tony Hayward

The President and the media can’t help BP rush through the unpleasantness of poisoning the ocean quickly enough. First, the government (starting with Bush, but extending through Obama’s reign) staffed the MMS with incompetents, who apparently alternated between allowing oil and gas company workers to fill out their own inspection forms, accepting Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl tickets from offshore drilling companies, and smoking crystal meth.

What I’m trying to say is, the MMS was extremely busy, which is probably why they didn’t notice BP’s blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a “useless” test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil in the event of a fiery explosion, which by the way, totally happened. But who has time to check superfluous stuff like a blowout preventer? I mean, that meth isn’t going to smoke itself.

BP has shown a desire to cover its own ass by allegedly forbidding clean-up crews to wear respirators so as to avoid future negligence lawsuits even as it continues to dump toxic dispersants, which have been banned in the UK, ignoring the EPA’s pleas to find a less toxic (and extremely available) version.

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Damning Bloomberg Article Reveals Geithner As Incompetent

Posted in Barack Obama, deregulation, Economy, politics by allisonkilkenny on March 1, 2009

Yalman Onaran and Michael McKee, Bloomberg News

timothy_geithner_reutersIt was 2004 and Tim Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, had a message for the Federal Open Market Committee in Washington. He told his 18 colleagues gathered around the long mahogany table that a clearinghouse was needed to monitor risks in the burgeoning $5 trillion market for credit-default swaps — the over-the-counter derivatives that would later spin out of control and help take down Wall Street.

In a move that may have foreshadowed his role as President Barack Obama’s Treasury secretary, Geithner over the next two years nudged financial firms to voluntarily clear a backlog of swap trades. They stopped short of creating a clearinghouse to bring more transparency to the market.

“Geithner was making noise on reining in derivatives, but he didn’t push hard enough,” says Jane D’Arista, a former economist at the Congressional Budget Office in Washington and a longtime Fed observer. “Maybe he’ll be more forceful now that he’s in a position with real power. But I’m not so sure.”

From his years as a Dartmouth College student and mid-level Treasury official through his stint at the New York Fed, Geithner, 47, has thrived as a backroom negotiator and conciliator. Now, as he struggles to rescue Wall Street from a crisis that happened on his regulatory watch, investors and economists question whether the 75th Treasury secretary can transform himself into a bold leader equal to the challenges ahead.

Wall Street executives have cheered Geithner’s nomination.

Brief Honeymoon

“Treasury Secretary Geithner possesses the intelligence and experience needed to partner with President Obama and his economic team to lead us to a recovery,” says Robert Wolf, head of UBS AG’s Americas unit based in Stamford, Connecticut.

The rookie secretary has already learned that the honeymoon won’t last long. After Geithner presented a $2.5 trillion financial rescue plan on Feb. 10, the Dow Jones Industrials tumbled 4.6 percent because investors found it bereft of details. Geithner also gave no indication that he would act quickly to dismantle the weakest of the banks, a move that Joseph Mason, a former bank regulator who teaches finance at Louisiana State University, says he should take now.

Japan prolonged its credit crunch and recession for almost a decade before it finally nationalized two of its biggest banks, the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan and Nippon Credit Bank, in 1998.

“The key to all our problems is the zombie banks,” Mason says. “We’re giving them money, which is not going to solve anything. We’re repeating the mistakes of Japan, which wasted a decade by not moving decisively against its zombie banks.”

Henry Morgenthau

No Treasury secretary since Henry Morgenthau, who served from 1934 to ‘45 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, has faced so many crises at once. After receiving $800 billion in loans, guarantees and capital injections since October, the financial industry is still hunkered down, unwilling or unable to put the wind back into the sails of capitalism. Geithner played a role in shaping the $787 billion stimulus plan, and now he and Lawrence Summers, head of the National Economic Council, must recommend to President Obama whether to give General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC an additional $14 billion in loans on top of the $17.4 billion Bush administration bailout or force them into bankruptcy. At the White House, the new Treasury secretary may have to compete for the president’s attention with Summers, his former mentor, and Paul Volcker, who has been clamoring for more power as chairman of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Methodical Style

Geithner’s strengths — his methodical style and bureaucratic savvy — were honed over 21 years in government, as he dealt with crises from Asia to New York.

“He really understands process and decision making and how to advance an agenda,” says Michael Froman, who was former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin’s chief of staff. “Some people are just better at it than others, not just having the big idea but breaking it down into the several dozen steps that need to make it work. That’s Tim.”

The Treasury secretary’s experience at the New York Fed from 2003 to ‘08 gave him an inside view of Wall Street that will help him choose the best remedies for today’s crisis, says Alex Pollock, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and a former president of the Chicago Federal Home Loan Bank. “He’s very well qualified,” Pollock says.

‘He’s Not Change’

Keep reading…

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Iceland on the Brink

Posted in deregulation, Economy, poverty by allisonkilkenny on January 26, 2009

The Independent

Two years ago, Iceland was top of the UN living index. Now it is in the frontline of the global economic crisis after the failure of its banks, reports Sophie Morris in Reykjavik.

s-iceland-largeJust a few short years ago, Iceland had much to be proud of. The good times were rolling so fast that one expected the country’s almost round-the-clock summer daylight to last all year. Business was booming, society overfed, and the capital, Reykjavik, was in vogue as a travel destination for rich revellers, gastronomes and culture lovers.

Iceland is a country of dramatic natural beauty: lunar landscapes, spouting geysers, sheer glaciers and craggy volcanic rock formations; an impressive but inhospitable isle floating in mid-Atlantic isolation. When, in 2007, it topped the UN’s Human Development Index for its high standard of living, literacy and life expectancy, the tiny community of 310,000 felt they had proved their educated, hard-working and resilient character on an international scale.

The previous year, America had abandoned its long-standing naval air station at Keflavik. Symbolically, the move set Icelanders free from more than seven centuries of foreign domination, first as a Norwegian and then a Danish colony, and for the past 65 years, less formally, under the wing of the US.

“The Vikings” had risen again, and this is the admiring title the country bestowed upon the small group of aggressive businessmen whose high-risk investing bloated the island’s economy to 10 times its GDP, buying up chunks of the British and Continental European high streets in the process. French Connection, Debenhams, Karen Millen, Oasis, Warehouse, Mappin & Webb, Hamleys and many more fell into Icelandic ownership. So did West Ham United football club. When Icelanders visited Copenhagen, they would strut into its smartest department store to buy expensive fashions from “their” shop. Like many British chains, it too was owned by the “Viking” Jon Asgeir Johannesson’s Baugur group: one in the eye for the mother country.

Few stopped to consider, let alone fret over, whether their swift financial ascent would end in an equally steep plunge into oblivion. They were too busy flying to Barcelona for dinner, opening smart boutique hotels, investing in art, planning massive public buildings and buying Range Rovers and Audi Q7s – Iceland is one of the top car-owning countries in the world.

In October, Iceland’s three main banks were nationalised and declared bankrupt. Overnight, any Icelander – and there were many – who had bought these status vehicles or invested in luxury new properties with a foreign loan found the value of their purchases plummeting as repayments soared. The currency, the Krona, fell to one quarter its value before trading in it was suspended. Thousands of hard-working couples nearing retirement age had placed their life savings in stocks with the Landsbanki, Glitnir and Kaupthing banks which led the crash. For many, every penny disappeared into the turbulent waters which connect Iceland with its American and European neighbours.

Frugal Icelanders have been stung too. Food and petrol costs are rising all the time and with interest rates nearing 20 per cent, domestic mortgages, even modest ones, are becoming impossible to service.

“The feeling is we are unable to look after our own affairs” says Hallgrimur Helgason, one of the country’s leading novelists. “We were on our own for years and we went too far, too fast, in too little time. We behaved like children and the first thing we did when the stock market opened 10 years ago was go to London and buy toy stores and candy stores. Now we are bankrupt and there will be no money for years to come and we have more debts than we can ever repay.

“We’re just like kids whose parents went away for the weekend and we trashed the entire house.”

There is no word from the government yet on how it plans to repair the damage. What does that mean for the man on the streets of a country whose coffers are empty? Are we talking soup kitchens, sheltered housing and begging on street corners? Far from it. If you’re as comfortable as Iceland was, the rot has its work cut out before it emerges on the surface.

The streets of the capital are clean and the people could not be more hospitable or charming. On Friday and Saturday nights, a succession of bars and clubs are packed out. Judging by the drunken state of most people, they are still spending money here.

Iceland’s troubles did reveal themselves during last week’s tumultuous events. Peaceful demonstrations began in Reykjavik’s main square, outside the Althing (parliament) building, had begun in October immediately after the crash. Last week they erupted in the worst riots since it became a founding member of Nato in 1949. Rocks were hurled at police and the Althing. Its windows were smashed and the building set alight. Over 130 protesters received treatment after police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, and one police officer was seriously injured.

On Friday morning, human rights campaigner and protest organiser Hordur Torfason told a chilling anecdote to illustrate the desperation many Icelanders are feeling. He had received a phone call from a man who said that four generations of his family had lost everything. “He wanted me to help them build a gallows in front of the parliament building,” says Torfason. “I asked him if this was to have some symbolic significance. ‘No,’ came the answer. ‘A member of my family wants to hang himself in public.'”

“I said I would help them but not in this way,” says Torfason. “But he killed himself two days ago.”

Red Cross employees and volunteers are working overtime to prepare for depression and desperation. The relief agency has expanded and is setting up support groups and activities for the unemployed. “One of the effects of long-term unemployment is depression,” says the agency’s Thor Gislason.

More people are attending church, he says, not just for spiritual succour, but because food is sometimes provided for a nominal charge. Soup kitchens, emblematic of Eastern bloc poverty, might be going too far. “We believe people will be too ashamed to stand in line publicly for food,” says Gislason, “so we will organise activities and volunteer work where food is involved instead.”

Icelanders are known for their love of good food. Now is the beginning of a month when people celebrate local cuisine by dining out on traditional dishes, but one smart restaurant with a menu featuring pickled whale blubber, whale sushi and peppered whale steaks, cod liver, pickled herring, smoked puffin breast, reindeer meat and caviar, is empty save a handful of foreign diners. Panorama, a new gourmet restaurant on the top floor of the Centerhotel Arnarhvoll, has magnificent views over Reykjavik’s harbour but is equally subdued. Over in Reykjavik’s 101 Hotel, owned by the “Viking” tycoon Jon Asgeir Johannesson and renowned as a favourite haunt of champagne-loving Kaupthing bankers, there are a few suits and little else.

As many as 8,000 people braved the damp cold to demonstrate last week, the largest number to attend a public protest in the history of Iceland. On Friday, the Prime Minister, Geir Haarde, who has cancer, called an election for9 May and announced that he will not run again. Yet protesters called for his immediate resignation on Saturday. The government’s efforts amount to too little, too late, they say. They want parliament dissolved, a new constitution, and an investigation of those politicians they believe accountable. “Every other person is basically bankrupt,” said organiser Magnus Bjorn Olafsson. “This is a revolution and we want to create a new constitution like the French did.”

All walks of life were evident at the protests; well-heeled Icelanders with their designer coats and dogs were as prevalent as any other group. For many, like Gudbjorg Bjornsdottir, 47, and Runar Mar Sverisson, 50, it was their first experience of protesting. “We thought it was time we showed our support,” says Bjornsdottir, “It is not enough to sit at home. We are not here for our personal situation but for the injustice.”

Asgerdur Einarsdottir, 43, attended a party last week attended mostly by architects and graphic designers. She was the only one there to have a job. She works in Iceland’s remaining steady industry, tourism, for a tour operator which provides visitors with thrills such as snowmobiling up a glacier or driving through lava fields.

Before the crash, Iceland was prohibitively expensive. It is now far more accessible to foreigners but the running costs of her firm, owned by the parents of Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, have gone up 110 per cent, and they are losing the lucrative business of indulgent corporate jollies.

On Reykjavik’s main shopping street, Laugavegur, bargains are suddenly to be found: in Saevar Karl, a designer department store, most items are 40 per cent off. Its manager, Tomas Tomasson, notes that Iceland is now the cheapest place in the world to buy Prada.

Everyone blames greed, political corruption and lack of financial regulation for the mess, but most know they must share responsibility. “I feel partly to blame myself,” admits writer Helgason. “We admired the brashness of the Vikings and we all got carried away. We are a young and immature society.”

Torfason says: “Things are bad and they will get much worse. But it is unlikely anyone will starve. There are people with no fixed address here, but none on the street; you would freeze to death. There is no call to be desperate. We are small but we have resources.”

This much is true. The seas are full of fish, geothermal energy and natural gas are abundant. Oil prospecting is beginning. But there is a risk that Iceland will give its riches away in a fire sale to the same Vikings who have already half-sunk the nation once.

Iceland has survived famine, volcanic eruptions and smallpox before. Now it must confront the fact that it has been blighted by a man-made disaster.

Iceland: The facts

*Population: 313,376

*Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK)

*Unemployment in October 2008 1.9%; January 2009: 7%. Expected to rise to 8.6% in 2010.

*Inflation: 13.1%

*Interest rates 18%

*GDP per capita in 2007: $42,000

*GDP per capita now: $39,400

*The world’s eighteenth largest island, Iceland has nearly 5,000km of coastline.

*Iceland’s natural resources include geothermal power and diatomite, many rivers and waterfalls are used for hydroelectricity.

*Did not gain full independence from Denmark until 1944. Granted limited home rule in 1874.

*Althing, the Icelandic parliament, is the oldest functioning legislative assembly in the world, which was established in 930.

*In 2007 Iceland was ranked the most developed country in the world by the UN.

*The Apollo 11 astronauts trained in Iceland because of the terrain’s similarity to the moon.

You Heart Corruption

Posted in Capitalism, deregulation, Economy, regulation by allisonkilkenny on December 21, 2008

“‘Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations.’ That’s Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize! We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it! Corruption is our protection! Corruption keeps us safe and warm! Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets! Corruption is why we win!”

terrorist_149985The quote is from the film Syriana, and the character that delivers the passionate/delusional diatribe is Danny Dalton, a Texas oilman and member of Committee to Liberate Iran. Dalton is a patsy, and is being charged with “corruption” in order to protect a much larger, much more corrupt corporation standing behind him. He’s a fall-guy, and that’s why he flies off the handle.

Watching the Bush administration and Wall Street executives’ gulp and thrash like beached fish made me think of little Dalton. The stock market isn’t a force of nature. It takes men and women (but mostly men) creating very corrupt policies to create America’s initial wealth, and then her downfall.

Everyone needs to stop acting like they’re surprised by the recession. It’s not cute, and it’s painfully insincere.

There’s been a proliferation of handwringing and philosophizing about what caused the economic collapse, why there was little impetus to aggressively address a rotting subprime industry, why our politicians were too lazy, slow, or indifferent to do something to address Wall Street’s broken ways.

Times of economic woes are the only time our society collectively examines the Free Market, and the effects of globalization — rarely on the world — but on us, Americans. How will this screw us? How long will it last? How will this vast machine affect us parochially?

Americans pretend like this is the others’ problem, and that they don’t also benefit from our corrupt society. Wall Street practices are certainly corrupt, but the problem isn’t contained to mortgage lenders, banks, and insurance companies. It’s pandemic and it has infected every facet of the American way of life.

The dirty truth no one wants to admit is that corruption floats America to the top. Only by utilizing cheap labor, deregulation, and speculative lending can our markets create extraordinary wealth. Wall Street occasionally acts as though it has just awoken from a strange nightmare because it’s necessary to act moral every now and then, namely when the press shows up.

Now is the time financial experts act like they have no idea how market bubbles inflate, CEOs get bonuses 100 times their annual salaries, and people like Bernie Madoff exist.

Regulation is trendy right now, but what that actually entails may surprise Americans. If our government seriously regulated the Free Market, and extended that moral behavior to the international community with living wages and humane worker conditions, it would profoundly change the way Americans live.

The price of our food, clothing, and other goods would increase. Fuel would skyrocket. Everything would be more expensive, and we would have to do with a lot less. CEOs would surrender their penthouses and yachts. Certain exotic fruits like bananas would suddenly cost much more now that Central American workers are permitted to unionize and demand living wages.

On the plus side, maybe less children would die and more people could have a shot at stability and happiness. Maybe cases of infectious disease would decline. Maybe people would drive less. Maybe we could save the world.

Of course, Americans would have to sacrifice, and they have a history of hating that. But things are changing now. There’s a murmur in this society, and it seems to be saying: Our way of life is broken. We need to fundamentally change the way we live.

People want regulation. They want less enormous wealth and extraordinary poverty. They want balance and justice. But they have to stop looking to the men that made the corruption to fix the problem. Americans have to demand the presence of independent sheriffs to watch industry 24/7 in order to right the wrongs of our corrupt past.

If regulation actually existed, things would be a lot less cushy for Americans, which would probably be a good thing, but some may suddenly miss that corruption that kept them so sheltered for so long.

Five Dangerous, Disastrous Things About the Proposed Bailout and What You Can Do to Help Stop It

Posted in Capitalism, deregulation by allisonkilkenny on September 24, 2008

From Alternet.org

The Bush era has been a period of one outrage following the next, but the administration’s bailout of Wall Street’s wheeler-dealers is the most outrageous yet!

Bush’s parting gift to the fat cats who twice filled his campaign coffers to the brim — when they weren’t busy playing fast-and-loose with the American economy — is a huge pile of tax dollars that will get them out of the problems their recklessness created, while leaving Main Street high and dry and at risk of foreclosure.

Here are five things about the crisis — and the Bush-Paulson Plan — that we just can’t believe our officials would even have the nerve to contemplate, as well as something you can do to help stop them …

1. They’re Making Long-time Wall Street Honcho Henry Paulson Into an Emperor!

We just can’t get over this little tiny section in the Bush-Paulson plan. Just 32 words long, it says that the whole thing is up to Paulson’s “discretion,” and “may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.” That’s like burning the Constitution! What happened to the separation of powers — to checks and balances?

2. They Want the Fox to Guard the Henhouse: Wall Street Brokers Will Decide which Wall Street Brokers Get a Piece of the Pie!

Believe it or not, Henry Paulson, who was a key player in creating this mess in the first place as the CEO of brokerage giant Goldman Sachs, wants to “outsource” the buying and selling of all these junk securities to Wall Street money managers. Remember, there are no restrictions on what they can do — their actions can’t even be reviewed by the courts!

3. They Want to Establish American Socialism for the Richest, and Dog-Eat-Dog for the Rest of Us!

Another thing that’s sticking in our craw is that this outrage is being pushed by the very same politicians who passed the horrible bankruptcy “reform” bill in 2005. That law actually made the mortgage situation worse, because it kept ordinary people from getting out from under a pile of consumer debt, and many more ended up losing their homes as a result.

When Bush signed the law, he said, “America is a nation of personal responsibility where people are expected to meet their obligations,” but that only goes for the Little Guy — the Big Boys get to make a mess and take no responsibility for it at all!

4. Nobody Knows How Much They’ll Really End up Pilfering from the Treasury?

The headlines all say that it’s a $700 billion bailout. But the plan that Bush put together only says that Secretary Paulson can hold onto $700 billion in bad securities at one time! He can buy some, sell ’em at fire-sale prices and then buy some more. Even worse, nobody knows what the final bill will be, because nobody knows what all those bad mortgages are worth.

5. They Want to Borrow All This Cash to Give to Wall Street, and Foreign Banks Too!

And, remember, the government doesn’t have that kind of money lying around — it’ll all be borrowed cash, sending the deficit through the roof.

When Bush came into office, he had a budget surplus. Then he got us into a trillion-dollar war in Iraq and at the same time gave all these huge tax cuts to the same people who are most responsible for this mortgage mess. He was set to pass a half-trillion-dollar deficit to the next president — now, it’ll be even higher! If the bailout passes, our children will still be paying for it for decades to come.

And Paulson says he even wants to let foreign banks get their snouts into the trough as well. It’s crazy!

This is certainly the greatest outrage yet, and we’ve got to stop it.

The following appeal from the Campaign for America’s Future is a great way to add your say to the snowballing resistance to this attempt to steal hundreds of billions from the public purse.

Within the next 24 hours, we expect Congress will make an historic choice to address America’s financial crisis: Cut the Bush administration a $700 billion blank check for Wall Street OR demand sensible public checks and balances in the $700 billion bailout. Write an emergency letter to Congress now, and tell them: No $700 Billion blank check to the Bush administration for Wall Street.

In the next 24 hours, Congress could shape America’s financial well-being for decades. Exploiting the financial crisis, the Bush administration is strong-arming Congress to give Wall Street $700,000,000,000 more of our taxpayer dollars — with no strings attached and no say from us.

Write an emergency letter to Congress now, and tell them: No $700 Billion blank check to the Bush administration for Wall Street!

Legislation could be on the floor of Congress within 24 hours. With the Bush administration stoking panic and pressuring Congress, citizens must speak up now to push back and demand common sense.

We need to fix this financial crisis, but giving $700 billion to Bush’s Treasury Secretary to spend as he wishes is over the top. The Bush administration is basically holding a gun to Congress’ head saying, “Give us the money immediately or the banks will blow up the world economy.”

If steps must be taken to keep the economy from failing, common sense must not be thrown out the window. Write Congress now and demand 3 basic principles to protect the public:

1.No Taxation Without Representation. If our tax dollars are going to buy bad assets from irresponsible bankers, the American people must get something for it. Equity in bailed out firms. Strong regulation so this doesn’t happen again. Stern public oversight. And, no golden parachutes for CEOs with our money.

2.No Help for Wall Street Without Help for Main Street. To truly get our economy back on track, we must aid the victims, not just the predators. Freeze foreclosures. Renegotiate bad mortgages. Create jobs generating clean energy and modernizing infrastructure. Prevent cuts in local police, health, road and school budgets. Extend unemployment insurance and food stamps.

3.No Insider Dealing. Wall Street can no longer be allowed to write their own laws. Legislators should refuse campaign money from Wall Street PACs or executives. We need a “time out” on contact between paid Wall Street lobbyists and elected officials while the crisis is addressed. Any congressional meetings with Wall Street officials must be immediately posted on a single website for complete transparency.

The next 24 hours will likely determine whether these common sense solutions prevail, or whether the Bush administration gets $700 billion more of our money to do with as it pleases.

Write now and demand that Congress ensure sensible checks and balances when dealing with hundreds of billions of our taxpayer dollars. Write now and tell Congress: No $700 Billion blank check to the Bush Administration for Wall Street!