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Economy

Tax Day: You Pay Your Taxes -- Why Don't the Rich Pay Their Share?
George W. Bush, over his eight years, took tax and budget policy to the crony-capitalist limit. His White House racked up $5 trillion in national debt by waging reckless wars, shoveling lush contracts and bailouts to corporate and Wall Street insiders, and, perhaps most arrogantly of all, slashing already-low tax rates on the incomes of the super rich. Few Americans realize just how incredibly little, historically speaking, our nation's wealthy now pay in taxes.

Maddoff Was A Piker -- America's Big Banks Are a Far Larger Fraudulent Ponzi Scheme
For months now, revelations of the wholesale greed and blatant transgressions of Wall Street have reminded us that "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One." In fact, the man you're about to meet wrote a book with just that title. It was based upon his experience as a tough regulator during one of the darkest chapters in our financial history: the savings and loan scandal in the late 1980s.

Krugman: The Market Wizards Were Exposed as Frauds -- Too Bad Obama's Team Still Believes in Their Magic
Underlying the glamorous new world of finance was the process of securitization. Loans no longer stayed with the lender. Instead, they were sold on to others, who sliced, diced and puréed individual debts to synthesize new assets. Subprime mortgages, credit card debts, car loans — all went into the financial system’s juicer. Out the other end, supposedly, came sweet-tasting AAA investments. And financial wizards were lavishly rewarded for overseeing the process. But the wizards were frauds. The underlying vision remains that of a financial system more or less the same as it was two years ago, albeit somewhat tamed by new rules. As you can guess, I don’t share that vision. I don’t think this is just a financial panic; I believe that it represents the failure of a whole model of banking, of an overgrown financial sector that did more harm than good. I don’t think the Obama administration can bring securitization back to life, and I don’t believe it should try.

Suze Orman To Bush: "You Owe The American People Every Penny Of Your Fortune And Your Family's Fortune"
Sitting in a green room after her TV interviews, she lambasts everyone from Alan Greenspan to Larry Summers to the former president of the United States, who holds an especially dark place in her heart. "Commander in Chief?" she says of George W. Bush, with a mix of disbelief and scorn. "You blew up every single financial vessel we had and if you think you aren't personally responsible, well, the blame starts at the top. There is no higher top than you, SIR! If I were you, I would feel so absolutely horrific that I would take every penny I had and distribute it to anybody and everybody to help them in whatever way I could. You owe the American people every penny of your fortune and your family's fortune."

AIG Giving Out $165 Million More in Bonuses. What the F**k!?
In January, President Obama called such irresponsible and blatantly self-serving Wall Street bonus activity in the face of the industry's massive financial crisis "shameful." And now we have Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner angry as well, demanding that AIG reduce the current round of bonuses that the company claims it's legally obligated to pay because they were promised and accrued early last year before the company's financial troubles surfaced. But an "angry" Geithner is about as intimidating as Doogie Howser, and AIG's essentially told him and the administration to fuck off, much as it did last Fall when, days after receiving it's first Federal TARP money, it threw another lavish $400,000+ "retreat" for it's executives and clients.

Three W's That Sank the American Economy and Boosted China
If you start with Wal-Mart and its multi-billion dollar progeny, it's one big giant sucking hole of jobs to China. Sure, if Americans who are underpaid or on unemployment get to spend more because of the "stimulus" package, many of them will spend their money at Wal-Mart. And who benefits most from increased spending at Wal-Mart: the untold wretchedly low-paid workers at Wal-Mart Chinese manufacturing plants. Indeed, Wal-Mart is the largest American company doing business in China. It's become so cozy with the autocratic Chinese government that there are Wal-Marts in China. But at least in China, the consumers are buying goods manufactured in their own country, thus really creating jobs for Chinese workers.

Federal Appeals Court Orders EPA to Review Pollution Limit
WASHINGTON—(FEBRUARY 24, 2009) A federal court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider limits on particulate air pollution, marking another victory for states and environmental groups which have challenged Bush administration environmental rules favored by industry.

The Spectacular, Sudden Crash of the Global Economy
For almost 40 years, smooth-talking snake-oil salesmen in well-tailored suits have pitched the wonders of a globalized economy. Politicians and pundits alike insisted that the wealthy states at the core of that worldwide economy could shift labor-intensive production to the poorer countries at the edges, in search of a cheaper pair of hands and less nettlesome regulations, and that ordinary working people would benefit. Whatever pain Americans might feel as a result of the project was merely temporary “displacement,” they argued, and anyway those cheap toys at Wal-Mart more than offset any problems that might come along with the decimation of America’s middle class. After all, a little lead never hurt anyone. The same hucksters sold a similar bill of goods to the developing world. Look outward, they said, build export economies and turn those peasants into factory line workers. Sign treaties forcing governments to let multinationals move goods and capital freely, keep their regulators out of the way of Big Business’s profits and prosperity will surely follow. The result was an illusion of prosperity.

Obama Is Right
We've seen, in recent weeks, an outpouring of public outrage over the mega millions that keep flowing – despite the escalating economic meltdown – into the pockets of America's top bankers and corporate executives. The amount of money that goes into executive pockets is staggering. So is the amount that comes out of those pockets in taxes: precious little. America's super-rich are paying far less of their incomes in taxes than average Americans who punch time clocks. This is grossly unfair. The current top tax rate on "ordinary" work income sits at 35 percent. But dividends and capital gains from the buying and selling of most assets face only a 15 percent top rate. That's why in 2006, America's top 400 paid just 17.2 percent of their $263 million average incomes in federal tax. As an example, billionaire investor Warren Buffett in 2006, paid 17.7 percent of his income in total taxes. His secretary, who made $60,000, paid 30 percent of her income in taxes.

Fightng for Our Homes
Eight million people are at risk of losing their homes because Wall Street abandoned responsible lending practices to gain short-term profits. And the housing crisis is not just a problem for families facing foreclosure – it's a problem for every homeowner in America. As long as foreclosures persist, home values will keep going down, and everyone loses. We need your help. Have you been affected by the housing meltdown? Foreclosed on? Underwater? Record your story, or the story of a friend, family member, or neighbor...

Obama Cracks Down On Influence Peddling
When President Obama was campaigning for the job, he promised to change the culture of lobbying and influence peddling in Washington.

In the Face of Economic Disaster, Republicans Have No Ideas
Here's a bottom line to keep you up at night: The economy is falling faster than Washington can get moving. President Obama says his stimulus plan will save or create four million jobs in two years. In the last four months of 2008 alone, employment fell by 1.9 million. Do the math. The current G.O.P. acts as if it — and we — have all the time in the world. It kept hoping in vain that the fast-waning Blago sideshow would somehow impale Obama or Rahm Emanuel. It has come perilously close to wishing aloud that a terrorist attack will materialize to discredit Obama’s reversals of Bush policy on torture, military tribunals and Gitmo. The party’s sole consistent ambition is to play petty politics to gum up the works. If anything, the Republican Congressional leadership seems to be emulating John McCain’s September stunt of “suspending” his campaign to “fix” the Wall Street meltdown. The Republicans do have one idea, of course, but it’s hardly fresh: more and bigger tax cuts, particularly for business and the well-off. That’s the sum of their “alternative” stimulus plan.

America Will Soon Owe More Than Its Citizens Are Worth
The sum of America's liabilities and other financial commitments now exceeds the collective net worth of its citizens, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation has calculated using the latest official data. Growth in the government's unfunded promises for social insurance programs such as Medicare, combined with a drop in Americans' net worth due in part by lower home equity values, is causing this unprecedented milestone. The Foundation's calculations are based primarily on the new consolidated federal financial statements as of September 30, 2008 which do not reflect the additional toll taken by more recent market declines, bailout packages, and record October and November deficits. The financial statements show approximately $56.4 trillion in debts, liabilities, and unfunded promises for Medicare and Social Security versus the Federal Reserve's estimate a total household net worth of $56.5 trillion, both as of September 30, 2008.

We've Inherited A Real Mess
Vice President Joe Biden said that the Obama administration and Congress are "off and running" in getting an economic stimulus package completed and approved with bipartisan support, saying that the goal is to "get money out of the door as rapidly as possible" to speed job growth. However, Biden said the severity of the economic landscape the U.S. is facing "is worse, quite frankly, than everyone thought it was, and it's getting worse every day." "There's been no good news, and there's no good news on the immediate horizon," he said. "The only good news is the president acted swiftly; he's put together an economic stimulus package that we believe, and outsiders believe, will create 3 million to 4 million new jobs and set a new framework for the economy to develop on, a new foundation. And so we're off and running, but it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Just as Bush Lied About the Justification for War on Iraq, American's Were Duped Again by the Credit Crises Lie
When I went on Rachel Maddow's show on Tuesday, she asked a question about the bailout that is really the question of our time: Did we get punk'd? As progressive bailout critics have been saying since the current Wall Street bailout was first proposed, the answer is yes. As the Minneapolis Federal Reserve reports, the major claims about a credit crisis that justified Congress cutting a trillion-dollar blank check to Wall Street were demonstrably false. And new data and reports show they remain demonstrably false.

The Rich Are Hogging Our Common Inheritance
Consider that the modern person on average is likely to work with no greater commitment, risk, or intelligence than his counterpart from the past. America's wealth is mainly a gift of our common past -- so how is it possible to justify our stunning level of economic inequality?

AIG Pulls Fast One -- "Cash Awards" Going To Managers
When you are a pro at a scam--the definition of "scam" also can be found under the term "insurance industry" -- you know how to try to pull a fast one. And AIG is trying to pull one -- under cover of the holidays. Check this out. You may remember that AIG -- which is afloat only thanks to a bailout by you, the taxpayer, to the tune of $152 billion and counting--made a whole lot of public relations when its top seven executives agreed not to take bonuses this year. Well, on the eve of Thanksgiving, obviously knowing the markets would be closed on the holiday and obviously knowing that just before the holiday few people would pay attention, AIG actually notified regulators that, well, yes, bonuses would be given out. Call it "retention pay" or "cash bonuses" or some other euphemism -- but the fact is that your tax dollars are going to reward people who are lucky to even have jobs. There should have been a housecleaning that swept the entire top level of managers out on their asses for playing a role in the financial crisis that is hurting millions of people.

How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth
There is an emergency. In less than a decade we will have to change course, but there are a few major obstacles blocking the way. First of all, received wisdom -- prejudices really -- so loaded that they orient collective action without anyone really thinking about them. The most powerful of these preconceived ideas is the belief in growth as the sole means of resolving social problems. That position is powerfully defended even as it is contradicted by the facts. And it is always defended by putting ecology aside because the zealots know that growth is incapable of responding to the environmental issue.

The Ten Worst Corporations of 2008
2008 marks the 20th anniversary of Multinational Monitor's annual list of the 10 Worst Corporations of the year. In the 20 years that we've published our annual list, we've covered corporate villains, scoundrels, criminals and miscreants. We've reported on some really bad stuff - from Exxon's Valdez spill to Union Carbide and Dow's effort to avoid responsibility for the Bhopal disaster; from oil companies coddling dictators (including Chevron and CNPC, both profiled this year) to a bank (Riggs) providing financial services for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet; from oil and auto companies threatening the future of the planet by blocking efforts to address climate change to duplicitous tobacco companies marketing cigarettes around the world by associating their product with images of freedom, sports, youthful energy and good health. But we've never had a year like 2008.

American Freefall
Free fall. The U.S. has lost private sector jobs for 10 straight months. One quarter of all businesses in the U.S. plan to cut payroll over the next year. Retail sales fell in October by the largest monthly drop on record. Auto sales have collapsed, driving the auto companies towards the precipice. Unemployment is up to 6.1 percent, with most analysts predicting it will soar past 8 percent over the next year. (That translates into unemployment among young minority men at rates of 50 percent or more). States are now facing $100 billion in deficits in operating budgets for the next fiscal year. Twelve million homes are "under water," worth less than their mortgages. The U.S. has joined Germany and Japan in what is becoming a global recession. A major recovery program -- featuring substantial public investment -- will be inevitably the first initiative of the Obama administration. It should feature more spending than tax cuts -- investing in renewable energy and conservation, in rebuilding everything from schools to bridges to a smart electric gird, in helping cities and states avoid crippling cuts of services, in keeping college affordable, providing health care to children, and aiding those most in need.

$2 Trillion in Taxpayer Money Handed out by Paulson and Bernanke, But Who Got It, Nobody Knows
With his latest policy switch to buying stock in banks and other companies, Henry Paulson has more zigs and zags to his credit than a fox trying to escape a pack of hounds. The fox and the hounds, of course, have a clear idea of what they want to do and how they want to do it, which is more than you can say of Paulson. Sums of incalculable size are being spent or pledged by Paulson and his playmate, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and nobody outside their organizations, or maybe inside them either, knows who got what, how much they got, and under what conditions they got it. Paulson appears to have given away, invested, loaned or lost about $300 billion of the first $700 billion Congress gave him. But he has lost more than money: Nobody believes him or Bernanke anymore.

Lawmakers, Treasury lock horns
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and members of Congress clashed on Tuesday over the best use for the $700-billion financial bailout fund, with lawmakers demanding money to stem a national wave of mortgage foreclosures.

The Borderline Illegal Deals Behind the $700 Billion Bailout
World leaders from nearly two dozen countries met in Washington over the weekend to discuss plans to increase regulation of international financial activity. They acknowledged that a failure of market oversight in countries like the United States had precipitated the financial crisis. Meanwhile, here at home, it's been a month into the Bush administration's more than $700 billion bank bailout. Last week, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson outlined a new bailout strategy intended to boost consumer borrowing and promote financing for companies that give out loans. President-elect Obama's transition team is reportedly working on improving the management of the bailout come January 20th. But that's two months away and according to the Washington Post, with $290 billion already committed, the Bush administration has taken no action to fill congressionally-mandated independent positions to oversee how the bailout is used. According to Naomi Klein's latest article in The Nation, "The more details emerge, the clearer it becomes that Washington's handling of the Wall Street bailout is not merely incompetent. It is borderline criminal."

A Huge Wave of Inflation is Coming
Paulson and Bernanke's "rescue" have only begun to do their full long-term damage. The time has come to review how back in 2005-2006 George W. Bush -- now increasingly perceived as another Herbert Hoover -- picked two top appointees who helped steer him towards his fateful 2008 rendezvous with a second Great Crash. One of them, a top level financier, insured that Washington's eventual rescue policies would concentrate on trying to bail-out Wall Street while ignoring the gnawing cancer of its warped ambitions and financial malpractices. The second, a professor, misapplied dogma about how to guard against severe downturns into a disastrous attempt to refight the onset of the 1930s depression -- his academic specialty. He did not understand the very different context of our own era of cyber-spatial financial recklessness and gathering global inflation. [Editor: As this web site has always attested, the wrong people were "bailed out." The U.S. economy has always been built from the grassroots up. No economy can function any other way. If working people aren't working, we are doomed. Socialism for the super-rich, as always failed, and most American's are about to pay a huge price for the failures of this administration and his corporate cronies who are committing a heinous crime against American taxpayers. Instead of spreading the wealth from working people up to to the nations super-wealthy elite, we need to require the wealthy to pay their fair-share to our nation, by eliminating tax breaks for the rich.] MORE COVERAGE ON THE ECONOMY, CLICK HERE

No More Socialism for the Rich!
I think it's part of the same illusion that the Republicans have been presenting for the last eight years. They say one thing, but the reality is, you know, something else, whether it's weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or whether it's now playing up "Joe the Plumber." The Republicans, their whole tax plan is to punish the plumbers and everybody else who has a job like this in this country. And yet they somehow have taken this guy -- I feel kind of sorry for this guy, too. He probably didn't expect to be in the limelight like this. And but it's not really about him as an individual. And I don't think people should be getting down on him just because he isn't a licensed plumber or his name isn't Joe or anything else that's come out. I just think that that's kind of irrelevant. The only relevant thing is that McCain is going to make sure that the wealthy get another incredible tax break while everybody else suffers. And Obama is going to make sure that ordinary Joe's are going to get a tax break. They're going to get relief. They're going to get help.

Are You Ready for the Worse the Economy Has to Offer
So, that's what I think we will get: an interval of deflationary depression followed by a destructive wave of inflation that will wipe out both constructed debt and constructed savings, scraping the financial landscape clean. There's no question that stage one is underway. But we can be sure the giant wave of money recklessly loaned into existence in just a few weeks time will wash back through the global economy leaving a swath of destruction.

Financial Meltdown 101 MUST READ
Everything you ever wanted to know about the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression but were afraid to ask. Following the pop of the market mania Internet bubble in March 2000, the Fed gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which was enacted during the Great Depression to prevent the type of banking activity that led to the 1929 stock market crash. In 1996, the Fed allows regular banks to become heavily involved in investment banking, which opens the door to conflicts of interest in banks pushing sketchy financial products on customers who poorly understood the risks. In 1999, under intense pressure from financial firms, Congress overturns Glass-Steagall, allowing banks to engage in any sort of activity from underwriting insurance to investment banking to commercial banking (such as holding deposits)... It was deregulation in 2004 that led to the huge growth of the shadow banking system of mortgage-backed securities; credit derivatives, a form of insurance for bond holders; and other exotic instruments." The only real oversight left in place was self-policing by the investment banks themselves. [Editor: McCain's plan for more deregulation practically guarantees more financial disaster for ordinary working Amerian's, while simutaneously enriching his super-wealthy friends and associates.] MORE COVERAGE ON THE ECONOMY, CLICK HERE

The Presidential Candidates Both Offer to Save You Money on Taxes
Use this online calculator to determine your personal tax savings from each presidential candidate.

The Bailout: Bush's Final Pillage
In the final days of the election, many Republicans seem to have given up the fight for power. But that doesn't mean they are relaxing. If you want to see real Republican elbow grease, check out the energy going into chucking great chunks of the $700 billion bailout out the door. At a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing, Republican Senator Bob Corker was fixated on this task, and with a clear deadline in mind: inauguration. "How much of it do you think may be actually spent by January 20 or so?" Corker asked Neel Kashkari, the 35-year-old former banker in charge of the bailout. When European colonialists realized that they had no choice but to hand over power to the indigenous citizens, they would often turn their attention to stripping the local treasury of its gold and grabbing valuable livestock. If they were really nasty, like the Portuguese in Mozambique in the mid-1970s, they poured concrete down the elevator shafts. The Bush gang prefers bureaucratic instruments: "distressed asset" auctions and the "equity purchase program." But make no mistake: the goal is the same as it was for the defeated Portuguese--a final frantic looting of the public wealth before they hand over the keys to the safe.

How the Banksters Made a Complete Killing Off the Bailout
Today, we hand our 8 year olds a $13 trillion national debt while our Congress hands Wall Street banksters the national purse without so much as a hearing to determine the cause of the debt collapse. Worse still, the money is doled out to the very same individuals who leveraged their institutions to casino status. Americans are correctly outraged at the spectacle of U.S. crony capitalism crashing stock and bond markets around the globe while simultaneously watching the poster boys of crony capitalism on Monday, October 13, 2008 march up the granite steps of the United States Treasury building in their Armani shoes and heist a fresh $125 Billion of taxpayer dough in broad daylight. The U.S. Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson's, $700 billion bailout plan to buy up distressed mortgage assets has spun off its own $250 billion subsidiary plan (skipping that pesky detail called taxation with representation) to inject $125 billion in equity capital into 9 of the biggest commercial and investment banks in the country. Another $125 billion may possibly go to smaller regional banks and thrifts, assuming they will sign on to the deal. And what will taxpayers get for their investment in these financial firms whose stock prices are getting hammered as the public recoils in revulsion at what they have done to our financial system?

Arson, Suicide, and Murder Mark the Economic Crisis
The fallout from the current subprime mortgage debacle and the economic one that followed has thrown lives into turmoil across the country. In recent days, the Associated Press, ABC News, and others have begun to address the burgeoning body count, especially suicides attributed to the financial crisis. (Note that, months ago, Barbara Ehrenreich raised the issue in the Nation.) Suicide is, however, just one type of extreme act for which the financial meltdown has seemingly been the catalyst. Since the beginning of the year, stories of resistance to eviction, armed self-defense, canicide, arson, self-inflicted injury, murder, as well as suicide, especially in response to the foreclosure crisis, have bubbled up into the local news, although most reports have gone unnoticed nationally -- as has any pattern to these events. While it's impossible to know what factors, including deeply personal ones, contribute to such extreme acts, violent or otherwise, many do seem undeniably linked to the present crisis.

Your Salary Eight Years from Now Under Obama, or McCain
Middle-class families will earn about $13,000 more in eight years if Obama wins and $5,000 if McCain wins.During his acceptance speech at Invesco Field in August, Barack Obama earned big applause for a line that compared Democratic and Republican economic policies. "We measure progress," he told the partisan crowd, "in the twenty-three million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president -- when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500, instead of go down $2,000, like it has under George Bush." As rhetoric, it was effective. But was it a fair point, or a cheap shot? It's true that the Bush expansion was one of the weakest economic recoveries in postwar history, but can you really lay the blame for that at the feet of the president? Isn't it the case that, ritual campaign promises to the contrary, presidents actually have very little influence on the economy? The conventional wisdom among economists says yes, but a growing mountain of historical data suggests that they may be wrong. In the postwar era, it turns out, Democratic presidents consistently produce higher growth rates, lower unemployment, better stock market growth, and less income inequality than Republican presidents. Nobody quite knows why, but the results are surprisingly robust. MORE COVERAGE ON THE ECONOMY, CLICK HERE

Which Political Party is Better for Your Wallet?
Since 1929, Republicans and Democrats have each controlled the presidency for nearly 40 years. So which party has been better for American pocketbooks and capitalism as a whole?

Bulls, Bears, Donkeys and Elephants
Since 1929, Republicans and Democrats have each controlled the presidency for nearly 40 years. So which party has been better for American pocketbooks and capitalism as a whole? Well, here’s an experiment: imagine that during these years you had to invest exclusively under either Democratic or Republican administrations. How would you have fared? As of Friday, a $10,000 investment in the S.& P. stock market index* would have grown to $11,733 if invested under Republican presidents only, although that would be $51,211 if we exclude Herbert Hoover’s presidency during the Great Depression. Invested under Democratic presidents only, $10,000 would have grown to $300,671 at a compound rate of 8.9 percent over nearly 40 years.

Federal deficit hits record $455 billion
Compounding terrible economic news, budget officials announced Tuesday that the federal deficit has soared to a record $455 billion, injecting new urgency into the closing days of the presidential campaign about spending in Washington, including efforts to stem the financial disaster. The final accounting for fiscal 2008 produced a larger shortfall than had been projected, reflecting the start of federal efforts to address the economic emergency. It is certain to become a significant issue in the campaign, confronting the candidates with new questions about their growing slate of proposals for new spending and tax cuts at a time when red ink is surging. "The reality is that the next president will be inheriting a fiscal and economic mess of historic proportions -- the legacy of President Bush's failed policies." The National Debt Clock in New York City even ran out of digits to record the overall national debt, which passed $10 trillion.

More Than 200 Top U.S. Economists Agree - Bush/Paulson Bail Out Won't Work
To the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate: As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:...

Financial Meltdown 101 MUST READ
Everything you ever wanted to know about the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression but were afraid to ask. Following the pop of the market mania Internet bubble in March 2000, the Fed gutted the Glass-Steagall Act, which was enacted during the Great Depression to prevent the type of banking activity that led to the 1929 stock market crash. In 1996, the Fed allows regular banks to become heavily involved in investment banking, which opens the door to conflicts of interest in banks pushing sketchy financial products on customers who poorly understood the risks. In 1999, under intense pressure from financial firms, Congress overturns Glass-Steagall, allowing banks to engage in any sort of activity from underwriting insurance to investment banking to commercial banking (such as holding deposits)... It was deregulation in 2004 that led to the huge growth of the shadow banking system of mortgage-backed securities; credit derivatives, a form of insurance for bond holders; and other exotic instruments." The only real oversight left in place was self-policing by the investment banks themselves.

If the GOP had Listened to ACORN we Wouldn't be in this Meltdown
Since the 1970s ACORN, which has 400,000 low- and moderate-income "member families" in more than 100 cities in forty states, has been warning Congress to protect borrowers from the banking industry's irresponsible, risky and predatory practices -- subprime loans, racial discrimination (called "redlining") and rip-off fees. ACORN has persistently called for stronger regulations on banks, private mortgage companies, mortgage brokers and rating agencies. For years, ACORN has alerted public officials that the industry was hoodwinking many families into taking out risky loans they couldn't afford and whose fine print they couldn't understand.

Cuomo Assails A.I.G. for ‘Outrageous Expenditures’
The attorney general strongly criticized the company’s spending on executive compensation. “In the last several months, as A.I.G. was teetering toward bankruptcy, and operating with unreasonably small capital, A.I.G. nevertheless made numerous extraordinary expenditures in the form of executive compensation payments, junkets and perks for its executives,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Moreover, even after the taxpayer-funded bailout of A.I.G., the company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for luxurious retreats for its executives, including an overseas hunting party and a golf outing,” Mr. Cuomo wrote. “We believe these expenditures and payments, made in the absence of fair consideration, violated New York law.”

The Anti-Democratic Nature of US Capitalism is Being Exposed
The simultaneous unfolding of the US presidential campaign and unraveling of the financial markets presents one of those occasions where the political and economic systems starkly reveal their nature. Passion about the campaign may not be universally shared but almost everybody can feel the anxiety from the foreclosure of a million homes, and concerns about jobs, savings and healthcare at risk. The initial Bush proposals to deal with the crisis so reeked of totalitarianism that they were quickly modified. Under intense lobbyist pressure, they were reshaped as "a clear win for the largest institutions in the system . . . a way of dumping assets without having to fail or close", as described by James Rickards, who negotiated the federal bailout for the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998, reminding us that we are treading familiar turf. The immediate origins of the current meltdown lie in the collapse of the housing bubble supervised by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, which sustained the struggling economy through the Bush years by debt-based consumer spending along with borrowing from abroad. But the roots are deeper. In part they lie in the triumph of financial liberalisation in the past 30 years - that is, freeing the markets as much as possible from government regulation. These steps predictably increased the frequency and depth of severe reversals, which now threaten to bring about the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

A Voter Guide to the Economy
A Gallup poll released this week showed that a majority of Americans -- 53 percent -- are angry about the financial crisis. And 41 percent are afraid. The system, Americans believe, has failed them. It only takes a glance at the morning news -- or a look at rising food and gas prices -- to see that these fears and frustrations are not without good reason. Every day, more and more people lose their homes and their health care and see their retirement funds erode. Or rather, they watch as these things get taken from them. It's infuriating to watch and painful to experience, and it's understandable to be mad as hell. It's OK because when a large enough number of people get angry enough, that's when things start to change. So, our question to you is, Are you mad enough yet? Because this crisis is about all of us. Are you sure your 401K is secure? Do you know how many of your tax dollars are being spent in Iraq -- a country that's sitting on an $80 billion surplus? Have you considered how you'll pay for your health care if Medicare goes broke? The answers to these questions aren't pretty. Fortunately, Nov. 4 gives us a chance to change things.

Let's Say You Had $700 Billion to Spend
Anti-poverty and women's rights lobbyists are looking at the government's $700 billion bank bailout and seeing a way to talk about national spending priorities. "It's obviously incredibly unfair," said Irasema Garza, president of New York-based Legal Momentum, a legal advocacy group for women. "We're willing to get ourselves in that type of debt to take incredible risk to bail out those industries but as a country we're not willing to take a fraction of that particular risk to make sure we have sound economic policies to give the citizens of our country the basic things they need to live: a place to live, health care, food, education for their kids and the creation of good jobs." In his personal blog Duncan Green, head of research for Oxfam Great Britain and author of the 2008 book "From Poverty to Power," notes that $700 billion could eradicate world poverty for more than two years.

The Woman Who Could Have Prevented This Financial Mess Was Silenced by Greenspan, Rubin and Summers
More than a decade ago, a woman you're likely never to have heard of, Brooksley Born, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- a federal agency that regulates options and futures trading -- was the oracle whose warnings about the dangerous boom in derivatives trading just might have averted the calamitous bust now engulfing the US and global markets. Instead she was met with scorn, condescension and outright anger by former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his deputy Lawrence Summers. In fact, Greenspan, the man some affectionately called "The Oracle," spent his political capital cheerleading these disastrous financial instruments. On Thursday, the New York Times ran a masterful and revealing front page article exposing the culpability of Greenspan, Rubin and Summers for the era of dangerous turbulence we live in. What emerges is a story of reckless, willful and arrogant action and behavior designed to undermine a wise woman's good judgment. The three marketeers' disdain for modest regulation of new and risky financial instruments reveals a faith-based fundamentalist approach to the management of markets and risk. If there is any accountability left in our system, Greenspan, Rubin and Summers should not be telling anyone how to run anything. Instead, Barack Obama might do well to bring back Brooksley Born and promote to his team economists who haven't contributed to the ugly mess we're in. MORE COVERAGE ON THE ECONOMY, CLICK HER

My Heart is Breaking Again Today
You'd think I'd get over it already. After reading so many patient horror stories and knowing how many people are hurting for healthcare, you'd think I'd have thicker skin. But I sat alone again this morning in the dark and cried. And I cried because this recession - this depression - is going to mean more and more people will have less access to healthcare both through insurance and through other means. ABC ran a piece this morning that described the ghost town-like atmosphere in some communities where foreclosures are growing and people are just up and leaving their homes and many of their personal belongings. Trash collectors come through and empty out the homes of the food, the dishes, the clothes, the TVs, the microwaves and the toys left behind. One of the young workers wondered when it might be his own family, his own kid's doll... These aren't events that just happened when the stock market took a dive or AIG failed or Lehman's execs went to the spa to relax. These families had been in crisis for months leading up to their fleeing. They had borrowed from friends and family members to pay the bills, they had answered angry collection notices and calls, they had tried to shield their babies from the stress, they had gone to work every day and tried to keep the ship afloat. It took a while... and neighbors knew it, friends knew it, teachers knew it, pastors knew it.

AIG: WTF?
American International Group has some explaining to do. The insurance company that needed a whole lot of help from the government to make up for its bad decisions doesn't seem to think it should be cutting back on discretionary spending. American International Group has come under increased scrutiny after it was revealed on Monday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the company paid $440,000 for an event held at a posh California spa that was listed as an executive retreat. The the little getaway for over 100 people that included golf outings and lavish hotel accommodations came while the government was setting the company up with $85.0 billion to keep it from filing for bankruptcy protection. What Edward Liddy failed to address in his letter is why the company didn't cancel the retreat when it realized it was going to be paying for it with the public's money. Where the Financial Crisis Might Be Headed
Five prominent economists share their thoughts on what's happening and how bad the situation really is. A well-functioning financial system has rules and it's when the rules are relaxed that shady practices and get rich quick schemes abound, which is what happened in the [sub-prime] mortgage system in 2005 and 2006. The banks' behavior was conditioned by Bush. [He] sent a clear signal that they could get away with everything, [that there was] no more effective supervision so go ahead and make toxic loans, we won't stop you, then everyone made a bundle and left an enormous mess. A full recovery will only begin with a new administration with a different philosophy seriously committed to ... bringing in new people, giving them adequate resources and the legal authority. I would argue it is impossible for McCain to do it. Even if he is a genuine convert to prudent regulation which he has opposed thoughout his career, who would believe it?

A very wealthy Lehman chief on hot seat
The now-bankrupt investment bank Lehman Bros. arranged millions in bonuses for fired executives as it pleaded for a federal lifeline, lawmakers learned Monday, as Congress began investigating what went so wrong on Wall Street to prompt a $700 billion government bailout. "You made all this money by taking risks with other people's money," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the panel's chairman, said. "The system worked for you, but it didn't seem to work for the rest of the country and the taxpayers, who now have to pay $700 billion to bail out our economy." And he said a compensation system that he estimated paid him hundreds of millions of dollars between 2000 and 2007 even as the company headed for disaster was appropriate. "We had a compensation committee that spent a tremendous amount of time making sure that the interests of the executives and the employees were aligned with shareholders," Fuld said. That wasn't good enough for some lawmakers who decried what they called a culture of entitlement at Lehman even as the company's performance nosedived. "Your company is now bankrupt, our economy is now in a state of crisis, but you get to keep $480 million," Waxman said, displaying yearly compensation figures on large TV screens in the hearing room. "I have a very basic question for you. Is this fair?"

Fears of Global Recession Grow Stronger
When the White House brought out its $700 billion rescue plan two weeks ago, its sheer size was meant to soothe the global financial system, restoring trust and confidence. Three days after the plan was approved, it looks like a pebble tossed into a churning sea. Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image Chris Kleponis/Bloomberg News “A drop in exports, as well as capital inflow, will trigger a falloff in investments,” said Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank. Related Managing Globalization: When Will the Losses End? The crisis that began as a made-in-America subprime lending problem and radiated across the world is now circling back home, where it pummeled stock and credit markets.

Federal Bicycle legislation passed to help encourage people to bike to work
After seven long years, the bicycle commuter tax provision has finally passed both the House and Senate. President Bush has said that he is eager to sign the legislation. “We are delighted that the bicycle commuter benefits act has passed after a lengthy and persistent campaign spearheaded by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR),” said League President Andy Clarke. “Bicycle commuters will now be extended similar benefits to people who take transit and drive to work – it’s an equitable and sensible incentive to encourage greater energy independence, improve air quality and health, and even help tackle climate change. Keep checking back at www.bikeleague.org as we work on the implementation process.

They're Stealing from You and Me: Where's the Outrage!
It's just human nature that some calamities register in the brain and others don't. The train engineer texting at the throttle ("HOW R U? C U L8R") and missing the red light and 25 people die in the crash -- oh God, that is way too real -- everyone has had a moment of supreme stupidity that came close to killing somebody. Even atheists say a little prayer now and then: Dear God, I am an idiot, thank you for protecting my children. On the other hand, the America's federal bailout of the financial market (yawn) is a calamity that people accept as if it were just one more hurricane. An air of crisis, the secretary of the Treasury striding down a hall at the Capitol with minions in his wake, solemn-faced congressmen at the microphones. Something must be done, harrumph harrumph. The Current Occupant pops out of the cuckoo clock and reads a few lines off a piece of paper, pronouncing all the words correctly. Where is the outrage? Poor Senator Larry Craig got a truckload of moral condemnation for tapping his wingtips in the men's john, but his party proposes to spend 5 percent of the GDP to buy up bad loans made by men who walk away with their fortunes intact while retirees see their 401(k) go pffffffff like a defunct air mattress, and it's business as usual.

What a Week
When it comes to leadership, this week proved we are living in a moment of mediocrities -- a long moment. Sarah Palin, wearing her ignorance like a beauty pageant tiara, was "annoyed" that she was asked actual questions. George Bush looked the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression square in the eye...and threw up his hands. Congress stepped into the leadership void and promptly created another one. And the less said about Alberto Gonzales' week, the better. Desperate times cry out for exceptional leaders. It's not a matter of stratospheric SAT scores or Mensa-level IQs. What we need is the one thing in short supply: wisdom. It's in our DNA to fear the evil genius. But we still have to be trained to recognize the dangers of the clueless mediocrity.

Foreclosures and the Right to Vote
The foreclosure crisis could do considerable damage to the nation’s voting system. More than a million people have lost their homes in the past two years. And because voter registration is based on people’s residences, they could face politically motivated challenges at the polls. The problem may be especially acute in the presidential battleground states. In Ohio, more than 5 percent of home mortgages are seriously delinquent or in the foreclosure process, and there were more than 67,000 foreclosure actions in the first half of 2008. Michigan and Florida have also been hard hit. Whatever happens in Macomb County, where nearly one in every 100 households is in foreclosure, it is likely that in at least some parts of the country there will be challenges to voters who have lost their homes. There is also a real danger that voters who are in foreclosure will be misled or intimidated into not casting ballots.

Now Comes Hard Part of Bailout
It will be one of the world’s largest asset management firms with an impressive $700 billion war chest. Nothing short of the global economy depends on its success. And the Treasury Department has barely a month to get it up and running. Mr. Paulson has recruited several former colleagues from Goldman Sachs to advise him. Using outside contractors on such an extensive scale raises a host of thorny questions, outside experts said. Among the most pressing is: How will the Treasury avoid conflicts of interest that fund managers will encounter as they work both for their own clients’ interests — which could pay higher fees — and the interests of taxpayers? With so much money on the line, lobbyists for interest groups are already besieging the government to decide in their favor.

How Bush Style Capitalism Killed Democracy
As a financial crisis became a political panic, capitalism murdered democracy (ironically, while pursuing a vaguely socialist bailout). Only, unlike a typical horror story, the dead body wasn't hidden, it was dumped in the nation's public square. The fiasco started, like most, with unreasonable demands. Under threat of financial meltdown, capitalism's corporate lobbyists asked our democracy to forsake its usual deliberations and hand over $700 billion of taxpayer money in less than a week. Many were surprised when democracy responded with such valiant defiance. As television screens split between the floors of the stock exchange and the House of Representatives, lawmakers initially voted with their constituents and against the bailout. Instead of responding to this meltdown by updating regulatory institutions or investing in job-creating infrastructure, the bailout proposes giving one unelected appointee -- the Treasury Secretary -- complete authority to dole out $700 billion to bank executives, with little oversight. And here's the scary part: That lurch toward dictatorship was motivated not just by crony corruption, but also by a deeper ideological shift. We now face market forces uninhibited by democratic governance -- Chinese dictators and Saudi princes can move trillions of dollars without so much as a press release. This bailout, marketed as a speed enhancer, is an aggressive attempt to discard democracy's checks and balances and pantomime that kind of autocracy. We now find ourseves at the beginning of a systematic assault on our Constitution and a radical departure from Franklin Roosevelt's original covenant -- a dangerous "new deal" we must say "no deal" to. [Editor: You can blame George Bush and the people who supported his policies for taking a budget surplus from the Clinton era, to throwing us into a dank pit of financial despair and what promises to be a deep and devastating financial depression.]

Stocks Close Sharply Lower Following Bailout Vote
Earlier in the day, the House of Representatives passed a measure to allow the Bush Administration to buy up to $700 billion in mortgage-backed securities in an effort to bring stability to financial institutions and unfreeze credit markets. The financial rescue package is essentially identical to a measure that failed in the House Monday, with the addition of provisions to increase FDIC insurance caps from $100,000 to $250,000. The rescue package was also tied to a broad range of tax cuts for alternative energy, a fix to the Alternative Minimum Tax and a series of other personal and business tax cuts.

The Bailout Passes: Bad News for You
This country faces many serious problems in the financial market, in the stock market, in our economy. We must act, but we must act in a way that improves the situation. We can do better than the legislation now before Congress. This bill does not effectively address the issue of what the taxpayers of our country will actually own after they invest hundreds of billions of dollars in toxic assets. This bill does not effectively address the issue of oversight because the oversight board members have all been hand picked by the Bush administration. This bill does not effectively deal with the issue of foreclosures and addressing that very serious issue, which is impacting millions of low- and moderate-income Americans in the aggressive, effective way that we should be. This bill does not effectively deal with the issue of executive compensation and golden parachutes. Under this bill, the CEOs and the Wall Street insiders will still, with a little bit of imagination, continue to make out like bandits. This bill does not deal with the absurdity of having the fox guarding the hen house. Maybe I'm the only person in America who thinks so, but I have a hard time understanding why we are giving $700 billion to the Secretary of the Treasury, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, who along with other financial institutions, actually got us into this problem.

Analyzing China's Exposure To U.S. Debt
Stephen Green, head of research at Standard Chartered Bank in Shanghai, speaks with host Liane Hansen about how the global financial crisis has hit China. China has close to $1.3 trillion invested in U.S. debt with up to $500 billion in agency securities.

There's a Better Plan
The champagne bottle corks were popping as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced his trillion-dollar bailout for the banks, buying up their toxic mortgages. To a skeptic, Paulson's proposal looks like another of those shell games that Wall Street has honed to a fine art. Wall Street has always made money by slicing, dicing and recombining risk. This "cure" is another one of these rearrangements: somehow, by stripping out the bad assets from the banks and paying fair market value for them, the value of the banks will soar. There is, however, an alternative explanation for Wall Street's celebration: the banks realized that they were about to get a free ride at taxpayers' expense. No private firm was willing to buy these toxic mortgages at what the seller thought was a reasonable price; they finally had found a sucker who would take them off their hands -- called the American taxpayer. There are four fundamental problems with our financial system, and the Paulson proposal addresses only one, kind of. To be frank, the administration has a credibility and trust gap as big as that of Wall Street. If the crisis was as severe as they claim, why didn't they propose a more credible plan? The administration is once again holding a gun at our head, saying, "My way or the highway." We have been bamboozled before by this tactic. We should not let it happen to us again.

Corporate Crime Fighters! Coup Averted for Three Days!
Everyone said the bill would pass. The masters of the universe were already making celebratory dinner reservations at Manhattan's finest restaurants. Personal shoppers in Dallas and Atlanta were dispatched to do the early Christmas gifting. Mad Men of Chicago and Miami were popping corks and toasting each other long before the morning latte run. But what they didn't know was that hundreds of thousands of Americans woke up yesterday morning and decided it was time for revolt. The politicians never saw it coming. Millions of phone calls and emails hit Congress so hard it was as if Marshall Dillon, Elliot Ness and Dog the Bounty Hunter had descended on D.C. to stop the looting and arrest the thieves. The Corporate Crime of the Century was halted by a vote of 228 to 205. It was rare and historic; no one could remember a time when a bill supported by the president and the leadership of both parties went down in defeat.

America Needs a New Deal
Bowing to public outrage, the House rejects the bailout and Wall Street swoons. It's another deep shock to the system--but an invigorating moment for democracy. This year happens to be the 75th anniversary of the New Deal, a revolution in governmental philosophy that began with the Emergency Banking Act of 1933. That first piece of New Deal legislation was a hurried response to the worst banking crisis in U.S. history--until now. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined the problem clearly in his first fireside chat, a week after taking office. "We had a bad banking situation," Roosevelt said. "Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in the handling of people's funds. They had used the money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans . . . It was the government's job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible." According to President Roosevelt, the New Deal had three fundamental aims: relief, reform and reconstruction. On Wednesday night, President Bush described his far more expensive but far less inclusive spending plan as merely a "rescue effort." Mr. Bush's proposal--to hand over $700 billion to Wall Street banks without any Congressional oversight, without any means to prevent conflicts of interest, or without any measures to help ordinary Americans--was disgraceful. FOR MORE ON THE ECONOMY, CLICK HERE

We Are Michigan Editor: Any successful economic plan must include relief for ordinary working American's.

  1. PROTECT HOME/COMMUNITY INVESTMENTS: We must stabilize mortgages at a fixed rate in order to help people to keep their homes and small businesses. It's time to revive the government Home Owner's Loan Corporation (HOLC). Organized in the early months of the New Deal, the HOLC avoided widespread foreclosures by purchasing troubled mortgages from banks and then reissuing them with more favorable terms. It proved a tremendous success -- for homeowners, taxpayers and banks.

  2. JOBS AND ENERGY: We must stimulate the emerging green economy by developing new technology's and the creation of manufacturing jobs (website) that provide real energy security -- home grown energy solutions (wind, solar power, bio fuels etc.), ending our dependence upon foreign oil and wars against other nations over their resources.

  3. ACCOUNTABILITY: We must provide adequate oversight and regulation over U.S. financial institutions who have clearly demonstrated that they are unable to manage their own industry without threatening the well being of the country and its people. Clearly, we need a regime change in Washington D.C., who will represent the interests of the people over corporate profits.

Grand Theft America
The Chickens Are Home to Roost; Are they ever, and here's what we've got. A global asset bubble. A predictable crisis allowed to build and mushroom. Begun after Chicago School (neoconservative) economics took hold under Ronald Reagan, and ultimately fundamentalism under GW Bush. The result - a "slow motion train wreck" gaining speed. Banks and other financial institutions failing globally. On September 25, the largest bank failure in US history with Washington Mutual's collapse. Earlier it was giant insurer AIG. Before that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch a forced liquidation to Bank of America. Others are now teetering on the edge. Strapped by toxic debt. The result of out-of-control greed for easy profits. Massive fraud to get them. Thinking they're the best and brightest, and only mere mortals mess up. Knowing Fed moral hazard will cushion them if they do. True for some. Not for others, and learning that the Federal Reserve (the world's key central bank) failed in its primary job; to protect the country's financial system from insolvency. By contributing to a financial crisis and one of confidence. By creating near-limitless amounts of capital. Fueling a housing bubble. Outsized consumer debt, and irresponsible investments free from government oversight. Fraudulent ones involving multi-trillions of dollars. Partnering with government to make it easy. Risking a global economic meltdown as a result. Scrambling to find solutions. Unsure if there are any. The present crisis is unparalled. Maybe it can be fixed, and maybe not. The problem is multi-fold. A perfect storm. A $700 billion bailout (called the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 - EESA) is just a down payment. Trillions will be needed in the end.

We have the momentum
We have joined in a wonderful, resolute outpouring of democracy, stood toe-to-toe with Wall Street and their henchmen in Congress, and defeated them. We have two things to do: First, is to present solutions that will work for all America. We need properly structured bailouts. And if this is really a New Great Depression, well let’s take our lessons from the first one and do it properly. It would be a grave mistake to think the battle is over Wall Street and their allies won’t go away that easy. They know this is a street brawl and they’ll be back in days, if not hours, cooking up new schemes as to how they will save the country from themselves. We need to tell those 205 turncoat Congressmembers who voted for this bill that they are being watched, and they better not betray us again or they’re out of a job come Nov. 4.

An Increasing Number of Economists Reject Bush Bailout Plan
Bailout Makes Little Economic Sense Listen Now [4 min 24 sec] add to playlist Morning Edition, September 26, 2008 · One opponent to the $700 billion financial rescue plan is Allan Meltzer, a former Fed economist and a professor at Carnegie Mellon university in Pittsburgh, Pa. Meltzer tells Steve Inskeep he's against the proposal because he thinks if Wall Street created the problem, then Wall Street should solve it. [Editor: Bush's worst nightmare is coming true. Real economists who see the Bush plan for what it is, welfare for the rich at the taxpayers expense, are coming forward in opposition to the bailout. Hopefully reasonable minds will overcome the failed policies of the Republican administration. The only real solution is to put wealth back in the hands of ordinary people. The super rich will probably oppose this plan, and propose continued fleecing of taxpayers and consumers.]

Create a NEW U.S. Government Home Owners' Loan Corporation
Background: For middle-class America the Home Owners' Loan Corporation, founded in 1933, was a crucial New Deal benefit. Americans had always held to an ideal of individualism that included a home of one's own; but in the years leading up to the New Deal, only four out of every ten Americans managed to attain that status. A key reason for the majority's failure was the restrictive mortgage system. This shaky system was unable to withstand the shock of the 1929 economic collapse. The number of mortgages issued nationwide dropped from 5,778 in 1928 to a mere 864 in 1933, and many banks went under, dragging homeowners down with them. Faced with this dire situation, the New Deal followed the lead of Herbert Hoover, who in 1932 had created the Federal Home Loan Bank to provide federal funding for lenders in the private housing market. Franklin Roosevelt, when he succeeded Hoover as president, inclined toward the latter course, but with government oversight and a focus on hard-pressed homeowners, rather than on the institutions controlling their mortgages.

Main Street: Bankers Get `What They Deserve'
Main Street thinks even less of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan than the U.S. House of Representatives, which defeated it yesterday. ``This thing they're talking about is only going to make the rich richer,'' said Paul Clancy, 30, a window washer who for 15 years has scrubbed panes on some of Boston's largest financial edifices. ``Leave them be, and they'll get what they deserve. Nobody helps me if I'm in trouble.'' In interviews from Seattle to Wilmington, Delaware, small-business owners, manual laborers and white-collar workers made clear they want the plan killed for good. By a margin of 55 percent to 31 percent, Americans said it's not the government's responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayer dollars, even if their collapse could damage the economy. By a margin of 55 percent to 31 percent, Americans said it's not the government's responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayer dollars, even if their collapse could damage the economy.

Poll: Two-Thirds of Voters Oppose Immediate Action on Bailout
Voters want to tell Congress: Slow down, you move too fast. According to a poll released today by Marist College, more than two-thirds of registered voters, 68%, want Congress to wait on the $700 billion financial sector bailout, stating more time is needed to understand the costs and risks.

Dennis Kucinich speaks on the House Floor

The Public Deserves a Better Deal
The Treasury plan to buy illiquid financial assets has been widely criticized as being unfair to taxpayers, who will have to bear losses ahead of shareholders of the institutions that will be bailed out. There are major problems with the Treasury plan. First, by buying banks' worst assets at above-market prices, taxpayers take an immediate economic loss -- while transferring wealth to shareholders and executives of the very institutions that brought on the financial crisis. Second, this plan puts too much discretionary power in the hands of Treasury officials. Who determines what financial assets are purchased and at what prices? Who determines which bank gets to benefit from these taxpayer subsidies? Will bank shareholders continue to receive dividends, and executives continue to get paid huge bonuses? When financial institutions borrow massive amounts of money to invest in assets that are now found to be illiquid and poorly performing, it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to bear the resulting losses. These losses should be borne by the shareholders.

Michigan delegation votes 9-6 against bailout plan
Michigan’s delegation split 9-6 against the bill in the House of Representatives, with one of the most vocal leaders of the opposition, Livonia Republican Thad McCotter, calling the bailout “a socialist solution -- one that, by threatening hardworking Americans’ prosperity, unconscionably ransoms hardworking Americans’ money and reduces their liberty.” “Congress cannot reinflate the bubble to save the American economy,” he added. The split was far from being along party lines. Voting for the legislation were Democrats John Dingell of Dearborn, Dale Kildee of Flint and Sander Levin of Royal Oak, and Republicans Dave Camp of Midland, Vern Ehlers of Grand Rapids and Fred Upton of St. Joseph. Upton is a key ally of GOP presidential nominee John McCain, who suspended his campaign last week to come to Washington to hammer out a bailout compromise. Meanwhile, voting against the bill were Democrats John Conyers and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Detroit and Bart Stupak of Menominee, as well as Republicans Pete Hoekstra of Holland, Joe Knollenberg of Bloomfield Township, Mike Rogers of Brighton, Candice Miller of Harrison Township, Tim Walberg of Tipton and McCotter.

Obama says Wall St bailout must protect Main St
Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday any plan to rescue Wall Street from its financial woes must ensure that taxpayers are reimbursed and corporate executives are not further enriched for mismanagement. The Democratic presidential candidate challenged President Bush to cooperate on a rescue plan embodying those principles and drop what Obama characterized as Bush's "my way or the highway" attitude toward the proposed $700 billion bailout. "The president's stubborn inflexibility is both unacceptable and disturbingly familiar," he said.

700 billion fluffy nothings
Staggering bailouts? Body counts? Global warming stats? They're just numbers, silly. I know, it's tough not to feel a little shaken, unnerved, openly disgusted. A $700 billion bailout of a Bush-gutted economy by an already nearly bankrupt U.S. Treasury? Two trillion for a failed war in Iraq? Ten trillion in national debt and a $480 billion budget deficit (not counting the $700B for the bailout and it could be much more) and a record trade deficit, with all those numbers nearly double (if not far more) of what they were in 2001? Why, you'd almost think someone -- or maybe an entire administration, perhaps the most irresponsible in modern U.S. history -- was largely to blame. More numbers: 47 million Americans without health insurance (up 30 percent from eight years ago). The U.S. dollar now worth roughly half of its 2001 value. More than 150 signing statements challenging over 1,100 provisions of federal law from a president who could give a flying constitutional crap for legal precedent. Oh, and yes: 4,170 dead U.S. soldiers (so far), 100,000 brain damaged and wounded, and tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians. But again, who's counting? Not Bush or McCain, that's for sure. So why should you? When those numbers turn really dark and frightening and dangerous to the stability of your job and your life and your future, well, we can't really hold anyone accountable. Certainly not Bush and his cronies, who've handed every tax break, gutted old law, nefarious new law and contorted FDA/EPA regulation over to Big Energy and the military suppliers and the same cretinous Wall Street players who mangled your money in the first place. Certainly not crusty, untouchable Alan Greenspan, now deemed to be the master architect of this collapse, whom John McCain once worshipped like a god. And certainly not those greedy Wall Street cretins themselves, many of whom knowingly manipulated a flawed system and floated trillions in worthless paper so as to better make their boat payments. Who cares if that paper had little pictures of your kids' futures on them? Personal note from Wall Street bankers: F--k you for caring.

What else could the government do with a $700 billion blank check?
There are, well, billions of possibilities. It could ensure universal health care coverage for six years, for example, or upgrade the country’s most deficient bridges four times over. All the work to upgrade coastal levees that’s been done since Hurricane Katrina? $700 billion could pay the wages of 22 million average Americans for a year. You could run an entire country. Seven hundred billion dollars is more than twice the size of the economy of Denmark, which had a gross domestic product of $312 billion in 2007. Seven hundred billion dollars would buy seven international space stations. It would finance the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s premier medical research institute, for two decades. Seven hundred billion dollars would cover one year’s health care bills for more than 85 million seniors, disabled people, children and low-income Americans. According to the Wall Street Journal, half the money FDR spent on his New Deal program to lift the country out of the Depression and banking crisis was for public works projects. For $250 billion in today’s dollars, the nation got 8,000 parks, 40,000 public buildings and 72,000 schools. But that’s thinking small. Presented with the presumptuous question of what could be done if the government suddenly came into a spare $700 billion, scientist M. Sanjayan said he’d “re-envision how we live on the planet sustainably.” “Instead of bailing out corporations with $700 billion, we could be bailing out nature,” said Sanjayan, lead scientist for the private Nature Conservancy. “We could fix all the harm we’ve done in the past but also get it right going into the future,” in the ways that people get energy, use water and procure food. He’s talking about everything from creating green jobs to boosting solar energy and protecting watersheds. SEE JOBS AND ENERGY WEBSITE

A state-by-state accounting of the House's bailout plan vote
The 228-205 roll call today of the vote by which the House rejected a $700 billion emergency bailout for the nation's financial system. In Michigan: Democrats — Conyers, N; Dingell, Y; Kildee, Y; Kilpatrick, N; Levin, Y; Stupak, N. and Republicans — Camp, Y; Ehlers, Y; Hoekstra, N; Knollenberg, N; McCotter, N; Miller, N; Rogers, N; Upton, Y; Walberg, N.

George Bush yet again cries 'Wolf!'
There's an old fable I'm sure you know. It's usually credited to Aesop, and the version I found online at storyarts.org, goes like this: "There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself, he took a great breath and sang out, 'Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!' "The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces. " 'Don't cry "wolf," shepherd boy,' said the villagers, 'when there's no wolf!' They went grumbling back down the hill. ...

Just Say "NO!" to Reverse Robin Hood
"I'm disappointed and disgusted with my own Republican Party as I watch them attempt to strong-arm a bailout of some of America's biggest corporations by asking taxpayers to suck up the staggering results of the hubris, greed, and arrogance of those who sought to make a quick buck by throwing the dice." -- Mike Huckabee

The Public Deserves a Better Deal
The Treasury plan to buy illiquid financial assets has been widely criticized as being unfair to taxpayers, who will have to bear losses ahead of shareholders of the institutions that will be bailed out. There are major problems with the Treasury plan. First, by buying banks' worst assets at above-market prices, taxpayers take an immediate economic loss -- while transferring wealth to shareholders and executives of the very institutions that brought on the financial crisis. Second, this plan puts too much discretionary power in the hands of Treasury officials. Who determines what financial assets are purchased and at what prices? Who determines which bank gets to benefit from these taxpayer subsidies? Will bank shareholders continue to receive dividends, and executives continue to get paid huge bonuses? When financial institutions borrow massive amounts of money to invest in assets that are now found to be illiquid and poorly performing, it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to bear the resulting losses. These losses should be borne by the shareholders.

Bailout Negotiations in Disarray
Negotiators broke off talks Thursday night with no agreement and with plans to reconvene in the morning, without House Republicans. The snafu spawned a round of political finger-pointing, with most Democrats blaming Sen. John McCain, whose decision to return to Washington and meet with congressional Republicans appears to have complicated days of negotiations. Sen. McCain "goes to a meeting and all of a sudden, we lose all the Republicans who have been working with us for the last five days,

Bail Out Wall Street (and Main Street) Without Soaking Taxpayers in Debt
Who says we need to borrow a trillion dollars to save Wall Street from its own excesses? As Congress debates the particulars of the Bush-Paulson bailout, one key question has gone largely unexplored: Who will pay for this mess? Lawmakers in Congress appear to have assumed that the federal government will simply borrow more money to foot the bill for the bailout. The national debt ceiling will rise to a whopping $11.3 trillion, up from $8 trillion a year ago. But this rush to borrowing merely shifts the bailout burden onto the backs of future taxpayers. Congress needs to change course -- and develop a "pay as we go" plan that makes Wall Street pay.

Citizens Dumping Personal Junk on Wall Street
"Why should people who made financially imprudent decisions be rewarded?" "It's our hard-earned tax dollars, and we're being asked to bail these guys out at the same time as this locks out all the things that we want for the future." Boyd's is one of many voices of frustration. Other people's anger spilled out online, which in turn, is fueling the planned protests' momentum. Arun Gupta, a 43-year-old freelance journalist in Manhattan, is someone else who was so upset by unfolding events that he was moved to action. "I've been spending a lot of time reading about the intensifying crisis and the bailout plan," he says. "The more I read, the more outraged and flabbergasted I was. "This week the White House is going to try to push through the biggest robbery in world history with nary a stitch of debate, to bail out the Wall Street bastards who created this economic apocalypse in the first place," he wrote. "This is the financial equivalent of September 11. They think, just like with the Patriot Act, they can use the shock to force through the "therapy," and we'll just roll over!" Think about it: They said providing health care for 9 million children, perhaps costing $6 billion a year, was too expensive, but there's evidently no sum of money large enough that will sate the Wall Street pigs. If this passes, forget about any money for environmental protection, to counter global warming, for education, for national healthcare, to rebuild our decaying infrastructure, for alternative energy.

Five Dangerous, Disastrous Things About the Proposed Bailout
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. 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.

Let's Stop the Greatest Theft in the History of Humankind
Why should American taxpayers give US Treasury Secretary "Hank" Paulson a blank check to bail out the shareholders of busted banks? Why should the Treasury turn itself into a toxic waste dump for their bad loans? Why not let other banks join the unlamented Brothers Lehman in bankruptcy court, and start a new bank with taxpayers' money? Or have the Treasury pay interest on delinquent mortgages, and make them whole? Even better, why not let the Chinese, or the Saudis or other foreign investors take control of failed American banks? They've got the money, and they gladly would pay a premium for an inside seat at the American table. None of the above will occur. America will give between US$700-$800 billion to the Treasury to buy any bank assets it wants, on any terms, with no possible legal recourse. It is an invitation to abuse of power unparalleled in American history, in which ill-paid civil servants will set prices on the portfolios of the banking system with no oversight and no threat of legal penalty. Why are the voices raised in protest so shrill and few? Why will Americans fall on their fountain-pens for their bankers? Why should American households that earn $50,000 a year subsidize Goldman Sachs partners who earn $5 million a year?

10 Things You Should Know About Bush's Trillion Dollar Bailout Plan
The Bush administration's proposal to bail out some of Wall Street's biggest players with an unprecedented transfer of public wealth to the private sector sent shock-waves throughout the nation. Already deep in deficit, the administration wants to borrow $700 billion dollars -- in addition to the $900 billion already spent this year to prop up troubled lending institutions and deal with the fall-out from the housing crisis -- and entrust it to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, fresh from a long run on Wall Street himself. He'd then buy up worthless paper from struggling banks. Who would get the money? Nobody knows. Under Bush's plan, the taxpayer would get little, if anything, in return. The whole thing would happen without Congressional oversight, save for a semi-annual report on the process, and Paulson's actions would be beyond challenge in the courts. [EDITOR: Any sensible bailout plan will put the taxpayer/mortgage holder front and center. Fix variable rate mortgages at an affordable 6%, provide money to create real jobs in the emerging green economy, put the taxpayer first ... Wall Street, the speculators, and Neocon billionaires can just wait in line for the economy to trickle up to them. Any bailout plan is simply fleecing the public and maintaining billionaires lifestyles at our expense. What FDR Did ... Nationalize, Evaluate, Liquidate, Recapitalize ... Fire the Banksters ~ Nationalize all the banks and declare a bank holiday just like FDR did. ~ Evaluate the banks assets ... ~ Liquidate failed banks ~ Re-capitalize healthy banks and take a stake for any investment ... ~ Fire the Banksters and the boards ...]

Meltdown
The immediate cause of our financial meltdown is unchecked, unbridled greed. Mainstream newspapers and the business press are doing a fairly good job of explaining how the lack of regulatory oversight led us into this nightmare. But you have to dig down one layer to find the cause of that situation. Under cover of the ideological euphemism known as the "free market" and with enormous cash investments over the past four decades, business elites have captured the regulatory organs of powerful democratic states -- nowhere more so than the United States -- and promoted their own narrow economic agendas for short-term gain. The move came after the federal government had already sunk a total of $900 billion into America's financial institutions this year, potentially bringing the total value of the Fed's tinkering to $1.6 trillion over three years.

Wall Street Socialists
The financial crisis gripping the U.S. has the largest banks and insurance companies begging for massive government bailouts. The banking, investment, finance and insurance industries, long the foes of taxation, now need money from working-class taxpayers to stay alive. Taxpayers should be in the driver's seat now. Instead, decisions that will cost people for decades are being made behind closed doors, by the wealthy, by the regulators and by those they have failed to regulate. The deal outlined in the brief document released on Sept. 20 epitomizes the principle of privatizing gains while socializing risk. In other words, we're splitting an oil well with the Big Boys on Wall Street: They get the oil, we get the shaft. It is, in short, a draft of what could be one of the greatest rip-offs in history. Bush, on the way out of power, is trying to create a publicly financed honeypot for the private sector on a scale never before imagined.

Fixing Wall Street Won't Fix Our Economy
Sure, the CEOs and hedge fund managers were greedy. There's no question that wealth and the pursuit thereof led to the sub-prime fiasco and the decline of Lehman Brothers, AIG, Merrill Lynch and more. But what's really at play here is persistent poverty and Wall Street seeking to make a dime off the poor, consequences be damned, while Washington looks the other way. The sub-prime crisis is the result of good people getting bad loans. Loans that triple or quadruple in interest rates, riddled with small print, are unbearable by most homeowners. But they are particularly unsustainable for low-income families working two or three jobs to make ends meet. Still, lenders scammed hardworking families with the promise of owning homes they really couldn't afford. And then greedy Wall Street managers, looking for a new way to squeeze a buck from an already bursting-at-the-seams economy, bundled up these bad loans into worse securities, sold them off, and tried to gain a profit as our national economy lost its shirt. [Editor: The best "fix" for our economy would be to fix variable rate mortgages at 6%. Banks would make decent money. People could continue to be able to live in their homes. Wall Street would stabilize. ... but no, Wall Street and corporate bankers' greed continues to bring this wrath upon us. Until we as a people say NO to taxpayer funded bailouts, we will be stuck paying a very large tab to reimburse insanely wealthy people such as John McCain for the exceedingly poor investment management choices they made. This system of corporate welfare/bailouts makes the rich richer, the middle-class poorer, and the poor desperate and destitute. We must do better for the people of our country, or we will continue to get what we deserve; more of the same. More on McCain's money]

Wall Street Bailout ... You Lose!
With financial institutions begging for bailouts, taxpayers should be in the driver’s seat. Instead, decisions that will cost people for decades are being made behind closed doors, by the wealthy, by the regulators and by those they have failed to regulate.

Only a Roosevelt-Scale Counterrevolution Can Prevent Great Depression II
The current carnage on Wall Street, with dire spillover effects on Main Street, is the result of a failed ideology -- the idea that financial markets could regulate themselves. Serial deregulation fed on itself. Deliberate repeal of regulations became entangled with failure to carry out laws still on the books. Corruption mingled with simple incompetence.

American Empire Is 'Crumbling'
Since the war in Iraq, the rest of the world has fallen away from the United States, and if American foreign policy continues in the way it has been -- that is aggressive and violent and uncaring about the feelings and thoughts of other people -- then the influence of the United States is going to decline more and more. This is an empire which is on the one hand the most powerful empire that ever existed; on the other hand an empire that is crumbling -- an empire that has no future because the rest of the world is alienated and simply because this empire is top-heavy with military commitments, with bases around the world, with the exhaustion of its own resources at home.

The Pentagon Strangles Our Economy: Why the U.S. Has Gone Broke
Military spending is taking a dramatic toll on the rest of the economy. The military adventurers in the Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups thought that they were the "smartest guys in the room." It is virtually impossible to overstate the profligacy of what our government spends on the military. The Department of Defense's planned expenditures for the fiscal year 2008 are larger than all other nations' military budgets combined. The supplementary budget to pay for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not part of the official defense budget, is itself larger than the combined military budgets of Russia and China.

Fannie Mae Worked Fabulously Well, Until It Was Privatized
In the past several days, before the U.S. Treasury Department acted to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, several people asked me if I thought it was a good idea for the government to "nationalize" the two mortgage giants. In virtually none of the coverage of the Bush administration's latest emergency action did anyone bother to tell the backstory. Fannie Mae, nee the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), began life as a government invention. It was born "nationalized" -- and it worked beautifully until it was privatized with the potential for huge profits. Under private management, Fannie did a 180. It was perverted from a government-sponsored and well managed agency that served the public interest into a privatized casino whose big bets enriched a few insiders and then helped crash the entire system. The taxpayers will bail out Fannie, but the rules for regulation of the mortgage system have yet to be written. That will await the next administration. And if the next administration is led by John McCain, the top financial guy is likely to be former Sen. Phil Gramm, the senate's biggest cheerleader for reckless deregulation.

Credit Card Debt: This Popping Bubble Is Really Going to Hurt
Combined with the subprime losses, such a credit card nightmare has the potential, experts say, of bringing down the entire financial system and global economy. You and your credit card have become key players in the highly unstable financial crunch. Mortgage lender cupidity and bank credit card greed wedded to financial institution deregulation supported by both political parties, have been made manifestly worse by Bush administration support-the-rich policies. It has brought us to a brink not seen since just before the Great Depression.

The Heart of the Economic Mess
The Federal Reserve Board's "beige book" for June and July offers a clear explanation for why the economy has slowed to a crawl. It shows American consumers cutting way back on their purchases of everything from food to cars, appliances and name-brand products. The heart of the matter isn't the collapse in housing prices or even the frenetic rise in oil and food prices. These are contributing to the mess, but they are not creating it directly. The basic reality is this: For most Americans, earnings have not kept up with the cost of living. This is not a new phenomenon, but it has finally caught up with the pocketbooks of average people. If you look at the earnings of nongovernment workers, especially the hourly workers who comprise 80 percent of the work force, you'll find they are barely higher than they were in the mid-1970s, adjusted for inflation. The income of a man in his 30s is now 12 percent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Per-person productivity has grown considerably since then, but most Americans have not reaped the benefits of those productivity gains. They've gone largely to the top. The only lasting remedy is to improve their standard of living by widening the circle of prosperity.

Follow This Dime
Why Misgovernment Was No Accident in George W. Bush's Washington. I moved to Washington in 2003, just in time for the comeback, for the hundred-year flood. At first it was only a trickle in the basement, a little stream released accidentally by the president's friends at Enron. Before long, though, the levees were failing all over town, and the city was inundated with a muddy torrent of graft. Corruption is uniquely reprehensible in a democracy because it violates the system's first principle, which we all learned back in the sunshiny days of elementary school: that the government exists to serve the public, not particular companies or individuals or even elected officials. We Are the Government, insisted the title of a civics primer published in the earnest year of 1945. "The White House belongs to you."

How to Survive the Triple Whammy of Energy, Food and Climate Crises
Gas prices are above $4 a gallon; global food prices surged 39% last year; and an environmental disaster looms as carbon emissions continue to spiral upward. The global economy appears on the verge of a TKO, a triple whammy from energy, agriculture, and climate-change trends. Right now you may be grumbling about the extra bucks you're shelling out at the pump and the grocery store; but, unless policymakers begin to address all three of these trends as one major crisis, it could get a whole lot worse. ...an important new study published by Cambridge University Press shows that organic systems in developing countries can produce 80% more than conventional farms.

Economic Free Fall
In their haste to do anything the financial guys seem to want, Congress and the lame-duck President are, I fear, sowing far more profound troubles for the country. First, while throwing our money at Wall Street, government is neglecting the grave risk of a deeper catastrophe for the real economy of producers and consumers. Second, Washington's selective generosity for influential financial losers is deforming democracy and opening the path to an awesomely powerful corporate state. Third, the rescue has not succeeded, not yet. Banking faces huge losses ahead, and informed insiders assume a far larger federal bailout will be needed -- after the election.

One Million and Counting
Over one million U.S. homeowners have already lost their homes due to foreclosures since the mortgage crisis began last summer. Another one million homeowners are 90 days past due on their mortgages (foreclosure notices usually go out after 90 days) and two million more are 30 days past due, so three million more households may face foreclosure in the months ahead. If current policies do not change, it is estimated that up to five million homeowners would lose their homes due to foreclosure over the next few years. Five million is roughly 10% of the total number of homes with mortgages. This is clearly the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression, and will wreck havoc in the lives of millions of families unless something is done. A high foreclosure rate also has a deteriorating effect on surrounding neighborhoods, further depressing housing prices and quality of life.

How secure is your employer based health insurance?
Last week, the Economic Policy Institute released a disturbing report revealing just how many white-collar workers have lost their employer-based health insurance in recent years -- even though they didn't change jobs. Many workers believe that if they hold onto their job, their insurance is safe. Professionals with jobs near the top of the occupational ladder are especially likely to assume that their employer is not going to cut their coverage. That may well have been true in the 1990s, when the job market was tight -- but not today.

When Will the Housing Crash End?
The worst is yet to come. We are not even halfway into this housing price decline. In books published in 2003 and 2006, respectively, my predictions of 25% home price declines nationwide and 50% price declines in many cities on the coasts are rapidly coming true. You can see that we have a long way to go because most ARMS are just now resetting, most foreclosures to date have been 2006 and 2007 mortgages and the banks are not going to lend 10 times your combined income in the future, but rather something more like 5 times. Unless you are willing to put up 50% down payments, homes have to come down further in price.

Bush-Led 'Disaster Capitalism' Exploits Worldwide Misery to Make a Buck
It's been ten months since the publication of my book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in which I argue that today's preferred method of reshaping the world in the interest of multinational corporations is to systematically exploit the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies moments of great shock and crisis. With the globe being rocked by multiple shocks, this seems like a good time to see how and where the strategy is being applied. And the disaster capitalists have been busy -- from private firefighters already on the scene in Northern California's wildfires, to land grabs in cyclone-hit Burma, to the housing bill making its way through Congress. The bill contains little in the way of affordable housing, shifts the burden of mortgage default to taxpayers and makes sure that the banks that made bad loans get some payouts. No wonder it is known in the hallways of Congress as "The Credit Suisse Plan," after one of the banks that generously proposed it.

The Mega-Pentagon: A Bush-Enabled Monster We Can't Stop
The Pentagon has developed a taste for unrivaled power and unequaled access to the treasury that won't be easily undone by future administrations. The Pentagon's massive bulk-up these last seven years will not be easily unbuilt, no matter who dons the presidential mantle on January 19, 2009. "The Pentagon" is now so much more than a five-sided building across the Potomac from Washington or even the seat of the Department of Defense. In many ways, it defies description or labeling. The Pentagon's "footprint" is firmly planted, military base by military base, across the planet, with a special emphasis on its energy heartlands. Top administration officials began preparing the Pentagon to go anywhere and do anything, while rewriting, shredding, or ignoring whatever laws, national or international, stood in the way.

An Expanding Military Budget Taxpayers Can’t Afford
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” -President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953. During the next few weeks Congress will consider hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, yet this legislation will receive relatively little review and scrutiny. Spending by Pentagon officials continues to grow at an incredible rate and it is time for Congress to determine whether this level of funding makes sense. President Eisenhower, the five-star Army general who was the military commander of the European theater during World War II, laid out stark choices that he and the country faced during his first year in the White House. Fast-forward 48 years to the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency, and it is remarkable how prescient Eisenhower was. Not only did Eisenhower vigorously fight against misplaced national priorities and overspending on the military, he also understood why that happened. In a 1961 speech, as he was leaving office, he said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Bush’s military budget is $515 billion, more than half of all discretionary spending. This is in addition to the $200 billion a year being spent on the war in Iraq, and another $16 billion spent on nuclear weapons.

Prison Profiteers: Who makes money from mass incarceration?
The United States houses a quarter of the world's prisoners. Fuelling the alarming growth rate of America's prisons is the profit motive. Making money, rather than deterring crime or promoting rehabilitation, determines why and how many prisons are built...$186 billion taxpayer-funded industry. Punishment for profit is a sordid, unethical and immoral enterprise, and no other nation places more prisoners in the custody of private corporations than America.

Behind the Rise in Prices: A Plan to Torpedo the Dollar
As Mike Whitney reported at the end of October in 2006 — a day before Halloween — the US was then engineering the drop in the dollar to “improve competitiveness” — ie subsidize US exports in a flawed attempt to reduce the growing balance of trade gap. The result was summed up in the headline: “The U.S. Dollar is kaput. Confidence in the currency is eroding by the day.” Whitney saw then what our media has still yet to report or understand. Was it a “trick or treat?” Read on: “The financial crisis that we now face was created by design. It is intended to destroy the labor movement, crush the middle class, quash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, reduce our foreign debt by 50 or 60%, force a restructuring of America’s debt, privatize all public assets and resources, and create a new regime of austerity measures which will divert more wealth to the banking and corporate establishment.” This was months before the subprime meltdown in August 2007, or the more recent hike in food prices and oil prices. Their plan, blessed by business and the banks, was implemented step by step. The consequence was intended. As oil prices climb, the public is angry. And who do they mostly blame? The oil companies and the oil producing states, of course. They have no clue that this crisis was the consequence of decisions made by the Bush Administration to devalue the dollar with its “crisis manager” Jim Wilkinson playing a central role.

Are We Doomed? Why Civilizations Like Ours Fall (audio)
The Bryant Park Project via National Public Radio (NPR) Are we doomed? Debora MacKenzie, the author of a recent New Scientist cover story, says our survival depends on how connected we are to each other. "A civilization is a system whereby people get what they need. They get the basics of life - food, water, shelter, civil order, and some kind of satisfaction," she argues. "When they fall is when they can no longer meet their people's basic needs using the mechanisms that have evolved.

Scott McClellan and the Politics of Profitable Hurt
Well, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan got the media firestorm he was hoping for, which will make the unemployed propagandist millions of dollars, which, I'm sure, he was hoping for even more. Old -- sometimes even young -- right wingers never seem to die; they just fade, and not even courteously away, into filthy and immensely undeserved riches. He's now being offered up by many on the left for political sainthood, because he's perceived as having turned on his old boss (which, according to those who've actually read all of What Happened, isn't quite the case). And that's the sort of Greek political drama we love. It's more than Oedipal, it's tasty. But lest we forget: If Scottie had not been pushed out of Propaganda Central, he would still be standing there at the White House podium, spewing the vilest of deceptions and lies on behalf of his criminal keepers. Setting the record straight and reclaiming his credibility, my butt. Truth is, this vengeful turncoat got his feelings hurt, as opposed to losing an arm or a leg or his manhood or his head in a cockeyed war without justification, except from a political marketing point of view.

Anatomy of a Price Surge
Oil companies, speculators and OPEC played their part, but ruinous Bush Administration policies have compounded the crisis.

How Lethally Stupid Can One Country Be?
Watching George W. Bush in operation these last couple of weeks is like having an out-of-body experience. On acid. During a nightmare. In a different galaxy. As he presides over the latest disaster of his administration (No, it's not a terrorist attack -- that was 2001! No, it's not a catastrophic war -- that was 2003! No, it's not a drowning city -- that was 2005! This one is an economic meltdown ... But let's give credit where credit is due. This is precisely by design. This is exactly the outcome intended by the greatest propaganda-promulgating regime since Hermann Göring set fire to the Reichstag. It was Göring himself who famously reminded us that, "Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." Sure worked in Germany. And it worked even better here...

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