Friday, July 17, 2009

Krugman, Taibbi, Johnston and Morgan nail Goldman; Commmenter nails Summers

Paul Krugman may not yet be awake to civic media as the only democratic remedy for America's economic (and soon to be political) crisis, but in today's column he does pillory Goldman Sachs as the driver of the financial oligarchy that has usurped control of American government and its elite universities as well. Comment after comment on Krugman's column is sharp; enough so perhaps to put some pressure on President Obama to recast his economic bailout program and change its leadership. References by commenters to GS critics like Matt Taibi, David Cay Johnston (audio clip from CBC Canada) and Mike Morgan are must reading. Morgan himself writes that
Sadly, what people don’t realize . . . is this time Goldman Sachs and other Banksters have raided our future, as they have control over many of our pensions, endowments and other fiduciary assets. Over the next few years, as people start to realize their pensions are gone, that is when the masses may finally rise up and crush Goldman Sachs and other greedy bastards that have destroyed so much. Unfortunately, it will be too late.
At Harvard in the 1960's, my professors would have dismissed language like this as "generating more heat than light." What would their counterparts at Harvard say about it today?

One comment to the Krugman column, #5 from Ruskin of Buffalo, NY, was recommended by more readers than any other - about 500 so far. It calls on President Obama to replace Larry Summers:
There are clearly MANY people in the Obama administration who have had a hand in the extraordinary betrayal of ordinary Americans represented by the policies formulated by Treasury Secretary Geithner, but the one person I would beg the President to get rid of is the second-in-command, Lawrence Henry Summers, head of the National Economic Council. I can think of nothing the President could do that would more clearly signal to the American people that he understands how angry tens of millions of us are, over the policies which have lavishly rewarded the banks at the expense of the taxpayers, than terminating Larry Summers's tenure in the Obama White House.

Why single out Summers? Because he is so obviously the big enchilada in the economic team; because his insensitivity to common sense behavior for someone in his position led to his "earning" millions and millions of dollars by giving talks [my link] to bankers and consulting for other players in financial services; because he was singularly unsuccessful in the most important job he ever took on (the presidency of Harvard) where his tin ear and lack of empathy left him isolated and rejected by the central faculty of the university. For God's Sake, Mr President, this MAN HAS HAD HIS TURN in the corridors of power - replace him with someone who has a heart as well as a brain, someone who has not lived his whole life surrounded by moneyed people, someone who CARES about the "little people" of this country (to reference Leona Helmsley.)
As a Harvard Alum, I can say that Ruskin says what I've been thinking for months. Summers really should go, and Ruskin's case for the man's quick departure is just plain eloquent. And David Olive at the Toronto Star says it's time for Summers to go, with Laura Tyson a a competent and ready-made "plug and play" replacement.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wake Up, Paul Krugman!

In "Boiling the Frog," New York Times Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman today compares America to the proverbial frog that lacks the ability to hop out of a slowly heating pot. So what's making life hot for the American frog? Krugman says it's government gridlock on two critical issues: inaction on a second stimulus plan to prevent potentially crippling unemployment and inaction on climate change. This gridlock scares Mr. Krugman, who concludes:
So if we can’t get action to head off disaster now, what would it take? I don’t know the answer. And that’s why I keep thinking about boiling frogs.
Of course, many Americans vehemently disagree with the liberal Mr. Krugman on these vexed issues. Yet the solution to polarized disagreement and government gridlock obvious: it's a national decision-making process on these issues, available to all Americans. 

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"10,000 Home Foreclosures Daily" prompt Saskia Sassen to call for a new economic model.

At this site, we've been mulling over the idea of economic models since last February and pondering the possibile need for a new one here in the USA. I just found what could be a seminal article on this topic, "Too big to save: the end of financial capitalism," by Saskia Sassen, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, New York, and at the London School of Economics. It appeared last April at It begins as follows:
The misnamed "Group of Twenty" (G20) meets in London on 2 April 2009 to discuss how to save the global financial system. It is too late. The evidence is in: we don't have the resources to save this system - even if we wanted to. It has become too big to save: the value of global financial assets is several times the size of global gross national product (GDP). The real challenge is not to save this system but to definancialise our economies, as a prelude to move beyond the current model of capitalism. Why should the value of financial assets stay at almost four times the overall GDP of the European Union, and even more of the United States. What do everyday citizens - or the planet - gain from such excess?
Sassen has a strong term to describe the predatory practices of the existing model of capitalism:
A defining feature of the period that begins in the 1980s is the use of extremely complex instruments to engage in new forms of primitive accumulation, with taxpayers' money the last frontier for extraction.
And here, says Sassen, is what primitive accumulation has been designed to do:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Danger of Incentives for Bankers to Take Risks with Taxpayer Dollers: Martin Wolf Gets It, Larry Summers Doesn't.

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times said flat out yesterday that the inadequate reforms of the U. S. financial system coming from Summers & Co are certain to lead to a second financial crisis. His main concern? Incentives: the incentives that Summer & Co. have given America's "too-big-to-fail" bankers to take risks with taxpayer dollars. Links to three recent Martin Wolf columns are here, here and here. The first is the most outspoken and urgent. It opens with a warning.
With one bound the banks are free, or so it seems. Already, the panic of the autumn of 2008 is fading. The period within which lessons can be learnt and changes made is closing. Yet without radical changes, another crisis is certain. It may not even be that long delayed.