Thursday, July 2, 2015

Links/Open Thread (Neoliberal Edition)

"Graft is a byword in American life today. It is law where no other law is obeyed. It is underminding the country. Virtue, honor, truth and the law have all vanished from our life."  -- Convicted mobster Al Capone, Liberty Magazine interview, Oct. 17, 1931.


Puerto Rico needs debt relief (New York Times): A bill allowing the territory's government to restructure its debt in bankruptcy court is currently before Congress, "but has not advanced due to the opposition of some hedge funds." (also see my previous post.)


Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson claims that he has lost millions of dollars betting on the successful failure of both Greece and Puerto Rico. (Fortune) He bet big-time on hopes that thirsty jobless Athens residents would be forced to pay for privatized water, and it just didn't happen.  One of his investment arms owns a whopping one-third of all bank deposits in Greece. You know -- the recycled bailout money from the Troika washing machine. The banks are closed and on the brink of insolvency. Last year, he bought over a billion dollars' worth of tax-exempt Puerto Rican bonds, which the government now says it can't pay back. Anybody want to bet on whether Congress sides with millions of struggling people over John Paulson? Actually, it is a safe bet that the big banks are already shorting their customers and hedging their bets on Grexit and regime change, and the downfall of Puerto Rico into a failed colonial state. Heads they win, tails you lose.


Chelsea Clinton's hedge fund manager husband also has lost "a ton of money" betting on a Greek "recovery" from more austerity via an abject submission by the Syriza government to the Troika finance capital vampires. ( Business Insider.) But Chelsea is doing her plucky best to stem the bleeding, having recently charged $65,000 for a ten-minute speech, a short Q&A and photo-ops at a publicly-funded university. What a trouper for the neoliberal cause. She didn't even personally pocket her fee, instead tossing the cash into the churning money laundry spin cycle of her family's "charity" -- for altruistic tax-avoidance purposes.


Not to be outdone by the global banking mafia's assaults on Greece and Puerto Rico, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced more than 1400 new teacher layoffs and $200 million in public education cuts to pay for tax breaks for the hyper-rich as well as for the Wall Street looting of their pension fund. Teachers, students and parents planned a mass rally in front of City Hall today to demand such alternatives as a luxury tax, financial transaction tax, and tax penalties for employers who pay workers so little that they must go on public assistance. Reaction by the teachers' union to Mayor One Percent's austerity announcement is here:

Not to be outdone by his pal Rahm, President Obama is going to bat for Big Phat Pharma in an even more rapacious way than we knew. According to another draft document from Wikileaks, drug companies stand to squeeze trillions more dollars from the citizens and taxpayers of the 12 nations affected by the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If the agreement is ratified as the draft now stands, manufacturers of cheaper generics would be squeezed out of existence in those countries (including the US, which already pays through the nose for medicines.) Out-of-pocket payments from Medicaid and Medicare subscribers would also be jacked up if the deal goes through. There is absolutely no distance between what the predatory drug manufacturers want, and what the Obama administration is willing to give them, according to a spokesman from Doctors Without Borders.

Obama does have a self-glorifying library shrine to build on public property in cash-strapped Chicago, after all.


Jay–Ottawa said...

If I you were forced to do business with one of the many crooks mentioned in Karen’s post of today, you’d probably do best with Capone. No kidding. Which among the others has stolen less and, directly or indirectly, killed, maimed and immiserated fewer?

valerie said...

As it turns out, the last time the U.S. and Australia had a free trade agreement a decade ago, our excellent pharmaceutical buying power was thrown under the bus. It will be made even worse under the TPP. Not only are some senators in Parliament speaking out but now Heather Ridout, Chair of our Superannuation (Retirement) System, Chief Justice, Robert French, the Productivity Commission, an advisory to the government which is very pro-business and even the Australian Chamber of Commerce are voicing concerns that Australia is being short-changed and that the ISDS is bad for Australia.

While Australia wants to keep on the good side of the U.S., I hope there will be enough dissent that we can keep the TPP from passing in Australia. Like the U.S. our manufacturing base has been decimated by free trade and with the decline in mining, more and more Australians are aware that there are fewer good paying working class jobs. For the first time in a very long time, people aren't buying that free trade is always good, especially when there is a lot of protectionism on the part of the U.S.

Jay–Ottawa said...

It is clear that the people of every nation subscribing to the TPP will be harmed by this so-called trade agreement. Along with their nations.

The rise of the “nation state” is disputed. When did it start? Was it territory, race, language, or a forced idea about identity that ultimately drew today’s map with those bright colors set apart by heavy lines?

Whenever, whatever––the nation state as we know it, as the defender of interests for people inhabiting a given territory, is about to disappear as an ultimate force. With its disappearance will go the rights and privileges we used to enjoy under the shelter of our motherlands, our fatherlands. We are on the verge of becoming un-sovereigned, orphans.

The new sovereigns with the right stuff will be the multinationals. Supranational power around the globe is now at their fingertips. Lesser trade treaties already in effect are challenging the sovereignty and most especially the treasuries and the laws of smaller nation states. Example, Philip Morris v. Uruguay.

So don’t cry for Uruguay. Or Australia, or the USA, or any of the other flags flying over the UN Headquarters in NYC. They’re all so yesterday. The big dogs can now be found on Wall Street, the Caymans, and the Bohemian Grove where every July for more than a century, in a ritual invented by rich men, “Care” is slain and cremated.

As George Carlin used to say: “They [the people who own you] don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL.”

Another of his lines was “It’s a club and you ain’t in it.” Neither is your country anymore. Maybe you’re still patriotic. Well, they aren’t.

When TPP finally passes, the “High Jinks” at the Grove should be memorable. Because the US, Canada, Australia, Uruguay and all the rest will be reporting to the Bilderbergers.

annenigma said...

Here he is, good old George Carlin, telling it like it was back in the day. That was when the c**ks**kers only controlled America. Now they control the whole f**king world! I miss George.

Meredith NYC said...

Isn't it true that the nation state had to develop before any democracy could begin? The church and emperors had ruled vast areas for centuries. Then individual monarchs fought wars and gained territory. Nations later developed out of common heritage, language and ethnicities. The nations later standardized the language, and taught it with their national history in schools.

Now, the US is a conglomeration of states rights,with different ideas of our history in some cases, and its dominant party downgrades and defies the federal govt. Racial issues are a big divider.

Our universal voting hides that we must choose from nominees picked and groomed by the big money donors. Representing the majority has little chance. The constitution and bill of rights lets us fool ourselves.

The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in England, and our Independence Day highlights the gap between our professed ideals and reality---after the patterns of voter suppression, of police violence against minorities, abuse of civil liberties, mass incarceration, now the SC massacre, and the idealization of a flag celebrating treason,slavery and war.

How far we've descended into a political twilight zone is shown as the Gop candidate nut gang piles on their atrocious statements to win, not turn off voters.

What might help block the multinational corporations from undermining democracy is that some nations have publicly financed elections with media time equally allotted free for all candidates, with strict limits on any private donations. Thus a wider range of voter choices and better voter turnout to protect their interests.

But we could hardly imagine that here----a country limiting the profits of huge media companies this way. Just as we can’t imagine their govts negotiating medical prices with insurance corporations. Here, both elections and medical care mean big profits. Politically impossible to interfere, so citizens must do without protection.

Legalized auctioning off of our leaders makes the US easy pickings for multi nationals. The Constitution? Phooey.

Meredith NYC said...

I didn’t know in Australia the manufacturing base was decimated by free trade. Have good paying working class jobs declined or been off shored to the same extent as the US? Are unions supported?

I’d read Australia has a higher min wage, strict gun safety laws, and of course universal h/c. I believe the h/c system is 2 tier levels, but with public financing, and then private insurance added on for extras of some kind, is that right?

What's the extent of public financing of Australian elections vs private donations to candidates? And the extent of privately paid political ads on TV? How long do your election campaigns for president last? Thanks for any info.

Jay–Ottawa said...

“The Constitution? Phooey.”

Tut, tut. There are snitches everywhere. As I heard Thomas Cromwell say recently, “Be careful.”

Meredith, I did read up a little before mentioning the nation state. Definitions, timetables and causation are in dispute among historians. Much depends on the geographical region where the nation state in question gelled. In some places, geography was the major factor. Elsewhere, a strong man or the language etc., etc.

Language was not as important in the 18th C as it became in the 19th and 20th. For instance, by the time France was generally regarded as having become a nation state, less than half the people within its boundaries spoke French.

Nationalism, often tied to one language but still a kind of spiritual notion apart often resting on historical myth, was mostly preached by the not always noble few to the many, often with unwholesome results to follow, like wars and genocide.

However, causation was not my point. Nor was democracy, which is not a parallel track of nationalism. Or the ups and downs of money and voting. My point was that the modern world’s nation states, the good, the bad, and the ugly, which have stood independent of one another for one, two or three centuries and have been for a long time the highest political entities to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to anything taking place within their boundaries–– provided they could defend their borders militarily––those nation states are about to lose their place on the top of their respective hills, no matter how much money, military might or craftiness they possess. To coin a word, they will no longer be the deciders.

Doesn’t matter much what kind of government now reigns in a nation state. (For once, I’m not hammering away at a justice issue.) I was committing political science. We are about to witness a major historical change ‘de facto’ and, thanks to the TPP treaty document itself, ‘de jure.’ To millions of people the TPP will represent a sea change in politics as stunning as the Magna Carta you mentioned.

How about you write your correspondents in those corner offices at the NY Times to get them to hammer away on this issue? Or at least open up their columns to political scientists in academe, some of whom are getting apoplectic over the issue of the supranational corporate takeover. Before the TPP is a done deal.

By the way, how many bigwigs at the Times fit in, not as reporters, but regularly as invited guests ‘without care’ at the Grove and Davos Summits, or even count themselves among the elite of the Bilderberg?

valerie said...


While it isn't as bad as the U.S., Australia is following America off a cliff when is comes to campaign donations. The ABC (our PBS) is expressing obvious concern that "As the cost of running campaigns has skyrocketed over successive elections, individual MPs and political parties have become increasingly dependent on the benevolence of big corporations and unions. Such reliance is only a small step away from being beholden to political donors, and corruption is merely another small step from there." from Lock up the War Chest, The Drum.

This is clear when we see the back and forth about the TPP. It is obvious this is a bad treaty for Australia but the conservative Liberal Party is very keen to sign, as was the more "liberal" Labor Party - minus the ISDS. Like the U.S. both parties receive private funding from the corporations which are hedging their bets.

The reason we have a more democratic system is our Independent candidates are much more vocal and play a bigger part in the political process, although there are only 4 in the House of Representatives and 1 senator. In the last election, the Independents tipped the balance of power by making a coalition with the Liberal side resulting in a Liberal Prime Minister, Tony Abbott (who is our equivalent to George W. Bush). Our Independent politicians tend to be less on the "take" than the members of the major two parties. More importantly, our ABC is not under attack the way PBS has been over the years and consequently, they are better about telling the truth about issues that will affect Australia. So while much of the news media is owned by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, we still have the ABC.

valerie said...

Our unions are vilified exactly the same way they are in the U.S. and union membership is down for exactly the same reasons - all the manufacturing jobs where unions used to have strong membership have been shipped off to the Developing World. Many people say the reason the jobs are gone is that workers are paid too much in Australia - a completely stupid argument since even these people acknowledge that in order to compete with $3 a day labour, Australians would have to work for something ridiculous like $20 a day.

One reason Australians didn't notice all the off-shoring of manufacturing was for the past twenty years we have enjoyed a "mining boom." The mines couldn't get enough workers who were flown into isolated places for three weeks on and two weeks off and paid VERY well. Now that the mining boom is declining, people who were formerly employed with the mines are now finding it hard to find good paying working class, union jobs. Like Americans, Australians were dazzled (bribed) by all the cheap stuff they could suddenly buy thanks to free trade with China and weren't really paying attention to how their government was selling out the Middle and Working classes.

Our minimum wage in Australia is around $16 an hour and of course, with universal health care, IS actually a decent wage. But housing, food, petrol and electricity are much more expensive so the $16 an hour doesn't go as far as you would expect.

We have a very good safety net but it is pretty unsustainable because it has relied heavily on the taxation around the mining boom. Kevin Rudd tried to raise revenue by raising taxation (a 30% super tax on mining corporations making over 75 million a year) on the minerals, which technically belong to the people of Australia, and he was soon ousted as Prime Minister. The mining corporations spent 22 million attacking Rudd and the Labor party, mostly on TV - making it sound like Rudd was going to cost Australians lots and lots of good paying jobs. Labor declined in popularity polls and replaced Rudd shortly afterwards. They said it was for a number of reasons, Rudd was a bit of a dictator, but the reality is the mining tax, which the conservatives repealed when they got into office, hurt Rudd and Labor.

I will admit, the Middle Class is being squeezed as we have the same issues with the ultra rich avoiding fair taxation and the poor being fully supported. We also have issues with able bodied people not working - Some of this is due to a lack of decent paying jobs and some is due to systemic abuse. The Middle Class is becoming embittered seeing people living on the dole while they work - it reminds me so much of the time before Clinton killed welfare. Because most Middle Class people don't know any rich people and they DO come in contact with "dole bludgers," they blame the welfare recipients more than the ultra rich and multinationals for their lack of buying power. There is also a new movement on the part of conservatives to protest any rise in taxes - even for the emergency levy tax which helps with fires!

Pearl said...

Thank you Valerie for sending me the article, 'The Tragedy of Harper's Canada'. I need to eat a solid breakfast before tackling this fine article from CounterPunch. Wonder where and if it appears in some Canadian news article.

And then your above comment about Australia proves that the same story only with different actors in it, is part of a larger global structure poisoning the lives of people everywhere.
Our only hope in Canada is the possibility that the New Democratic Party will win the election shortly which will allow so many of us to let our breaths out. Trudeau is a mystery, never hear anything profound from him which may help this situation. What hopes exist in Australia for improvement?

We have to keep speaking out - Bernie Sanders is - and it will be interesting yet frightening to see what will happen. At least he has infused some real blood into the election fever. One can always dream it will have some effect as the United States is ripe for a political revolution to begin.

You are so far away Valerie but I doubt you would want to live in my birth country even if it were possible.
My problem is what to tell my granddaughters without frightening them - but they are catching on and will have to make their way when I am gone.
It is hard enough facing real old age with such burdens on all of us - but history keeps repeating itself. When we run out of options to survive maybe, just maybe things will start to change. I find Humanist philosophy important to read in order to manage meanwhile and keep sane while keeping my fingers crossed.

Take care.

Pearl said...

Is Bernie Sanders a Lefty on Everything Except for Israel? via @jdforward

Is this worrisome? Especially from the Jewish Forward?

Ste-vo said...

Do not know if you read the article in the Sunday Post-Patriotic Saturday NYT:
but read it. The comments, everyone of them are priceless. Someone called them out on there continued stonewalling of the Sanders candidacy! "A better dressed Ann Coulter!" "What did Indian Americans ever do to deserve D'Souza and Jindal?" "Aren't naturalized citizens guilty of a felony eligible for deportation." On and on. I find D'Souza right up there with Friedman and Brooks, David and Arthur C. Mine will never be approved.

Dr. Hu said...

Kudos, Karen. Your tenacity in dogging Prof. Krugman vastly exceeds my own. And I find your sometimes sardonic and always spot-on replies refreshing as the breezes flowing off (receding) Cascade glaciers. The PK groupies drive me up a wall with their fawning regurgitation of his tired shibboleths. Even dear old Rima Rigas, in a comment harsh on neo-liberalism, rejected my criticism of neo-lib's avuncular mouth-piece as bearing significant responsibility for the very problems he often criticizes--viz., global imbalances, the fleecing of the developed nations Middle-classes and the hyper-exploitation of the planet's poor, ecological despoliation, etc. "He's complicated," retorts Rigas--and a few of my friends. After all, he's got the "conscience of a liberal" thing going for him. And we all know liberals are good. And, equally, Lord Keynes was a humanist, so, by extension, his neo-Keynesian, neo-liberal followers must have the public welfare at heart. But Krugman strays so far afield from Keynes, especially as regards "free trade," that he dishonors the legacy of man he purports to revere.
Anyway, thanks for your insightful and inspiring posts. I am a great admirer--and I sure as hell ain't no robot. (nor am I really Chinese--just lived there and then blogged about its flirtations with eco-cide, its roiling of the global economy, and its massive contribution to climate change--with collusion of the planet's first world corporate titans. Nor am I named Dr. Hu)

Hopeful Pearl said...

Jay: How do you read the results of the Canadian elections coming up? Friends think the possibility of an NDP victory is increasing which is so terribly vital for the Canadian future.
Under the Conservatives, the country has been slipping back into a replica of the U.S. which has been disheartening.
Such a victory here would also encourage others in the U.S. to fight harder. Although I can't vote I have contributed some money to the New Democratic Party which is something I normally don't do. It is a very important election since the world will be watching.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Hi, Pearl

Here’s my take on Canadian politics. Neither the New Democratic Party nor the Liberals have a leader who excites voters with openness and commitment. As you know, the NDP lost a lot of momentum with the untimely death of Jack Layton in 2011. As for the Liberals, they have devolved into a bad joke.

At the same time, Steven Harper, the boss of the Conservatives and repeatedly the Prime Minister of Canada may be coming to the end of his political career. More and more Canadians are growing sick of his dictatorial style in ignoring the law, Canadian tradition, and pushing a neoliberal agenda. I’m not sure how much longer he can go on alienating key constituencies. Looks like he will at very least lose his majority in the next round of Parliamentary elections this October. But if he can still squeak by with a plurality of seats, he’ll be PM for another handful of years. The NDP’s immediate goal therefore is to win a plurality in October. Then they have to try to pick up enough votes to accomplish something by forming a coalition with the weak reed of the Liberal Party.

Are you aware of an organization called Voices-Voix? It’s an organization backed by, so far, 233 local, provincial and national organizations, most of which you and I might join if we had an infinity of time. Voices-Voix are not affiliated with any political party but have come up with a devastating critique of Harper’s rule. It’s first featured when you pull up their website (below). See you at the polls in October.

Meredith NYC said...

Dr. Hu,
Whoever you are, I’m glad to see you post here, since I recall your comment to Krugman as a rare and refreshing breeze of criticism, whether from China, the glaciers, or wherever.

I replied to Rima also, whose reply to you was a surprising disappointment. She won’t go far enough against Krugman, “the Professor.” Hero worship, like many, despite her valiant stances on many issues.

My reply to her reply got in late. But I said:

Rima....evil he ain't? I'm relieved. But I'm afraid Krugman's complexity is no excuse. He is a centrist, and only seems liberal in our warped political spectrum. I used to be a great fan but seems now he's giving an unbalanced picture and this fits in with the aims of the Democratic party, who are themselves beholden to big money.

There's a reason K never ever traces our problems back to campaign finance, unique in the US compared to other democracies. And always is rah rah about ACA and the Recovery, etc. He disagrees with other liberals on a host of issues. And thinks TPP really isn't that bad. Put it all together.

When we want to defend people's faults we say they're 'complex'. Let's not compare him to some of the low standards of honesty of rw peers. We deserve better.