5.13.2014 Leave a comment
A political blog written from a left populist perspective
7.17.2012 Leave a comment
According to news reports, UK banks fixed the London interbank borrowing rate (Libor) with the complicity of the Bank of England (UK central bank) at a low rate in order to obtain a cheap borrowing cost. The way this scandal is playing out is that the banks benefitted from borrowing at these low rates. Whereas this is true, it also strikes us as simplistic and as a diversion from the deeper, darker scandal. Banks are not the only beneficiaries of lower Libor rates. Debtors (and investors) whose floating or variable rate loans are pegged in some way to Libor also benefit. One could argue that by fixing the rate low, the banks were cheating themselves out of interest income, because the effect of the low Libor rate is to lower the interest rate on customer loans, such as variable rate mortgages that banks possess in their portfolios. But the banks did not fix the Libor rate with their customers in mind. Instead, the fixed Libor rate enabled them to improve their balance sheets, as well as help to perpetuate the regime of low interest rates. The last thing the banks want is a rise in interest rates that would drive down the values of their holdings and reveal large losses masked by rigged interest rates.
Briefly put, the Libor scandal is the result of a smoke and mirrors operation meant to secure the smoke and mirrors world of high level banking.
4.29.2012 Leave a comment
The New York Times reports that Apple Inc. is both anti-tax as a matter of principle and pays little to the states and countries which permit it to exist. Steve Jobs — Genius© — made it very clear that government ought to serve the interests of his company and that his company lacks a civic conscience:
In one of his last public appearances before his death, Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, addressed Cupertino’s City Council last June, seeking approval to build a new headquarters.
Most of the Council was effusive in its praise of the proposal. But one councilwoman, Kris Wang, had questions.
How will residents benefit? she asked. Perhaps Apple could provide free wireless Internet to Cupertino, she suggested, something Google had done in neighboring Mountain View.
“See, I’m a simpleton; I’ve always had this view that we pay taxes, and the city should do those things,” Mr. Jobs replied, according to a video of the meeting. “That’s why we pay taxes. Now, if we can get out of paying taxes, I’ll be glad to put up Wi-Fi.”
He suggested that, if the City Council were unhappy, perhaps Apple could move. The company is Cupertino’s largest taxpayer, with more than $8 million in property taxes assessed by local officials last year.
Ms. Wang dropped her suggestion.
Think different, indeed….
4.3.2012 Leave a comment
David Broad recently addressed the increasingly contentious political situation in Canada, one defined by the economic reactionaries and their work to impose an austerity regime on the country. He briefly characterized the situation thusly:
The Tories [in Canada] are also using trivial smoke and mirror tactics in trying to keep Canadians from focusing on austerity, such as playing up the budget announcement of doing away with the one cent piece, with mainstream journalists joking about being “penny pinched,” etc. But indications are that many Canadians will not be so easily fooled, especially as their circumstances deteriorate. The majority of Canadian voters did not vote for and do not support the Harper Tories. Strikes and other trade union actions are on the rise in Canada, Aboriginal peoples are becoming more vocal, Canadian youth have been participating in the Occupy Movement, and students in Quebec have risen up to oppose postsecondary tuition increases. Conservatives are quick to chant that Quebec has the lowest tuition in Canada, not wanting us to consider that perhaps postsecondary education should be free for all. Conservatives are also working to vilify all youth activists, using youth “riots” as an excuse, denying that such “riots” are not simply senseless vandalism but only understandable as the frustrations of discouraged young people who see a society that has little future for them.
3.29.2012 2 Comments
ALEC is the acronym of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a self-proclaimed non-partisan think tank which drafts legislation which is often made into law by the various states. For instance, ALEC wrote for and promoted the “kill at will” or “stand your ground” legislation that recently resulted in the Trayvon Martin killing. As a consequence of its efforts in this matter, ALEC has become a focal point for the Justice for Trayvon Martin movement. ALEC has earned this critical attention for the Martin killing and for much else, including Scott Walker‘s attack on the state of Wisconisn.
Krugman’s description of ALEC is both accurate and critical in intent:
What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.
Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.
What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.
ALEC — the well-funded defender and promoter of crony capitalism, desiccated democracy, political opacity and unaccountability as well as the socio-political environment which nurtures economic predation. In the last instance, it appears that Trayvon Martin was just unlucky prey for ALEC and some of its tools (George Zimmerman, the Florida state legislators linked to ALEC who passed
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, etc.). But it is wise to keep one’s attention on the fact that Trayvon Martin was prey because the most Americans are prey.