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Archive for the ‘Financial Reform’ Category

Today’s Flickr photo

A winter postcard from Cambridge, England. Flickr photo by .mush_king.

 

If you read one thing today . . .

Economist Dean Baker in the Talking Points Memo builds the case for a financial speculatin tax on stock market trades — a move that could raise $150 billion a year from Wall Street banks. It only seems fair that when the rest of us are worrying about our jobs and making mortgage payments that Wall Street “share the pain.” Not likely. Despite the recession, the banks, thanks mostly to a government bailout, are turning out huge profits and once again ready to  pay out obscene bonuses.

What is really great about a financial speculation tax is that the Wall Street banks would pay almost the entire tax. The economics on this is very simple. If a tax makes trading shares of stock, options, or other assets more expensive than people will trade less. For example, if a tax doubles the price of trading shares of stock, research shows that people will trade roughly half as much.

This means that investors will spend roughly the same amount on their trading with the tax as they did without the tax. They will pay twice as much per trade, but since they trade half as frequently, they end up paying the same amount on their trading.

Instead the cost of the tax will be born by Wall Street. The banks will have to absorb pretty much the full cost of the tax. This explains why prominent people in Washington have so little interest in financial speculation tax.

Overheard

Adam Liptak in the NYT looks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s success arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, big business has done extremely well.

“The Roberts court appears to be a mainstream, traditional, modern Republican, conservative court,” said Bradley W. Joondeph, a law professor at Santa Clara University and a former law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “Part of its constellation of commitments is against the regulation of business and, in particular, the regulation of business through litigation.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

The Barkhor in Lhasa, Tibet. Flickr photo by Alex '77.

If you read one thing today . . .

This is a late entry but this gem from Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) might very well be the quote of the year. Bachus, the incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, clearly gives a new meaning to the phrase “letting the fox guard the hen house.” Bachus told Mary Orndoff of the Birmingham News , it’s the banks, not Congress that should be calling the shots. This despite the fact it’s those same Wall Street bankers who drove our economy into the ground with their reckless deal making.

Bachus, in an interview Wednesday night, said he brings a “main street” perspective to the committee, as opposed to Wall Street.

“In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks,” he said.

He later clarified his comment to say that regulators should set the parameters in which banks operate but not micromanage them.

Overheard

Kevin Sessums with The Daily Beast interviewed Kevin Spacey about his new film “Casino Jack,” which is about everybody’s  favorite disgraced K Street lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Spacey on fact being stranger than fiction:

But these kinds of stories based on real events—like Recount and now Casino Jack—are filled with characters that are so larger than life and the decisions and judgments are so outrageous and the excesses even more outrageous when money and power and influence become such an integral part of the political process. All of that is so crazy that it is inherently funny. You couldn’t f*#king write this shit. It’s far more funny because it is real. We’re not making this stuff up. This shit happened.

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A meager $293? That’s the average weekly unemployment check collected by the 15 million Americans looking for work right now. Or $293 million? That’s what outside groups funded primarily by corporations and the very wealthy spent on the 2010 elections.

$75 billion? That’s the windfall coming to people who are already rich if the Bush tax cuts are extended. $145 billion? That’s the record amount Wall Street is paying in bonuses this year.

Trillions? In the wake of the financial crisis, that’s what We, the People provided in bailouts, loans and other supports to save Big Business from its own greed and irresponsibility.

At Public Citizen, our mission is to counteract the policies that cause numbers like these. We can defeat corporate power. But we need your help.

Please contribute $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can today.

Contribute $100 or more and get a free DVD from a selection of popular progressive films!

Corporations just elected their dream Congress. It’s going to take all of us doing everything we can, together, to prevent Congress from rolling back our health and safety protections and showering gifts on their corporate patrons—and to win new public interest initiatives.

Public Citizen will be leading the fight against corporate power in the new Congress, a Congress that will be less critical of corporate America’s agenda than any we’ve ever seen.

The critical first step is making sure we can hit the ground running when Congress returns to Washington in January. That’s why I’m writing now to ask for your help to raise $150,000 by the end of 2010.

Your contribution of $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can afford will be put to work immediately building on our important achievements in 2010 and growing our movement against runaway corporate power.

For four decades, Public Citizen members have stood together to face down corporate power.

I need you to stand with me today.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

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Weissman

With the year coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on how things are going. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done together. We won some hugely important victories and built an increasingly powerful movement to take on corporate power.

I’ll be reviewing our achievements—and addressing the just-announced deal to give massive tax cuts to the nation’s richest people—in subsequent messages.

For now, I want to offer a snapshot of corporate power in Washington. It’s not a pretty picture.

Corporate crime and wrongdoing is an everyday fact of life in the United States and around the world. Still, the past year has been remarkable for a series of (more…)

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Stunning Statistics of the Week:

  • 69: Number of preliminary reviews conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics over the past two years
  • 11: Number of disciplinary actions meted out by the House ethics committee during that time
  • 10: Number of disciplinary actions meted out by the House ethics committee between 1997 and 2008, before the Office of Congressional Ethics was created

U.S. Supreme Court takes aim at Arizona clean elections law
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging Arizona’s clean elections law. Under the system, if candidates forgo private fundraising and adhere to spending limits, they can receive public money after raising a set number of $5 donations. The law permits candidates to receive extra money if their opponent spends more than a certain amount. Good government advocates worry that the Supreme Court is gearing up to once again erode laws designed to curb corporate influence of elections.

U.S. Chamber’s election spending raises eyebrows among shareholders
Investors in four corporations that sit on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – IBM, Pfizer, Pepsi and Accenture – are raising concerns about the Chamber’s political spending and agenda. Through the shareholder resolutions, investors challenged their corporate boards to review their policies relating to political expenditures. One of the resolution’s filers said in a press release that “[t]he Chamber of Commerce is an aggressively (more…)

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Today’s Flickr photo

Incoming freshmen of the U.S. House of Representatives

New members of the 112th Congress met on Capitol Hill Friday morning. Flickr photo by TalkMediaNews.

If you read one thing today . . .

Think Progress’ Lee Fang has a nice reminder of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s history of putting corporate interests over the public interest. President Obama, who is reported to be considering giving a speech at the Chamber, might want to be wary of burying the hatchet with this group.

The Chamber does not represent the entire American business community — not by a long shot. Although the Chamber has misrepresented itself and claimed to represent 3 million businesses (later modified to 300,000 after a Mother Jones exposé), in reality it actually represents a small group of multinational corporations. In 2008, half of its donations came from just 45 corporate donors. In 2009, nearly half of the Chamber’s money came from a single donation from the health insurance industry trade association. Moreover, the Chamber doesn’t appear to truly care about jobs or small businesses — evidenced by the fact that the Chamber killed legislation to create millions of new clean energy jobs and expand America’s competitive advantage in clean energy technology.

As ThinkProgress has noted, journalists often give undue credit to the Chamber as the “voice for business” simply because the Chamber is an old institution, they associate it with separate and distinct local Chambers that actually represent small businesses, and because the U.S. Chamber has one of the most sophisticated media outreach programs in Washington, D.C. But the Chamber does not deserve such respect, either from journalists or President Obama.

Overheard:

Journalists David Sirota and Matt Taibbi knocked back some drinks recently and wondered why none of Wall Street’s crooks never seem to get their comeuppance. Taibbi, who writes for Rolling Stone, was in Denver on tour for his new book “Griftopia,” which looks at how Wall Street greed drove the economy into the ground with virtually no consequences for the perpetrators. So, are the Wall Street grifters untouchable?

“They’re not afraid because other than Bernie Madoff, when was the last time someone on Wall Street faced any real punishment?” [Taibbi] responded. “Sure, a few go to jail once in a while, but they’re usually out in a few months and then on the speaking circuit. That’s not exactly a deterrent against bad behavior that’s making you millions.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

BP cleanup dumpsters in Pensacola, Fla. Flickr photo by Keo 101.

If you read one thing today . . .

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman paints a rather stark and depressing picture of American politics in the wake of the GOP’s take over of the House and its agenda to oppose all things Obama. Krugman figures Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke might have better luck tilting at windmills than gaining some Republican buy-in on measures to reduce unemployment.

Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke’s efforts, Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might help sustain demand in a depressed economy — even aid to small businesses, which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of unemployment benefits — an action that will both cause immense hardship and drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there’s no point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn’t work that way anymore.

Overheard

Remember Bob Ney, the Ohio congressman who was brought down in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal? Ney left Washington in disgrace for a 30-month sentence in a federal prison. The National Journal’s George E. Condon Jr. caught up with Ney in, of all places, in India where he is hanging out with devotees of the Dali Lama. Ney spends his days listening to the Dali Lama’s teachings on meditation and such.

“You bring a pillow, or you can buy one,” Ney explains. “They come around with some bread and some butter tea. You sit, and you bring a hat because of the sun—because it is quite warm here. And you sit out there … on stone areas, and he does the teachings.”

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