There are at least four principles that virtually all conservatives purport to support – except when the potential defendant is socially elite. I have written previously about two of these principles on several occasions – the need for accountability and “broken windows” theory that calls for the prosecutors to make the prosecution of even minor street crimes a high priority if they have, even indirectly, a material effect on the community.
The third principle is that it is vital to punish in order to deter crime. Gary Becker, the very conservative Nobel laureate in economics, emphasized this point (again, in the context of street crime). Under Becker’s theory of crime our current practices of allowing elite banksters to become wealthy through leading the “sure thing” of accounting control fraud with immunity from the criminal laws will predictably lead to new, larger epidemics of fraud that will continue to cause our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. It is rare, however, to find a prominent conservative who is demanding a priority effort to prosecute the elite bank officers who ran those frauds. I know of no conservative member of Congress publicly making that demand today. Senator Chuck Grassley has previously criticized the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute elite bankers.
Five long years have passed since the demise of the once venerable firm of Lehman Brothers. To mark the occasion, Wall Street, the United States Treasury Department, the White House, and their several political proxies and spokespersons have taken to the mass media to instruct the public in the “lessons” to be drawn from the financial crisis of 2007-09. Regrettably, we are witnessing the propagation of several self-serving falsehoods in the hope that the public can be induced to embrace them now that the immediacy of the events in question is in the past. Some of the lessons are so flagrantly false that they demand immediate correction.
One of the reasons I haven’t weighed in with the obligatory Lehman five year anniversary piece is that so many of them are variations on a limited range of themes. So it may be more instructive to discuss the stories that it would have been nice to see instead.
There’s no way to possibly count the various ways in which Dodd-Frank rules have been watered down, even from their already waterlogged original intent. But we got another example of it yesterday, the product of a corrupt bargain between the mortgage industry and so-called “progressive” housing groups.
Aircraft maintenance was a highly paid blue-collar job that required education, training, manual skills, and brains. It was one of the perfect American middle-class jobs with generous healthcare, retirement, and vacation benefits; and free flights! They were working for icons like Delta, American Airlines, Continental, TWA, or Pan Am. Icons indeed!
The consternation at the not-exactly-a-surprise nomination of billionaire Penny Pritzker to be Commerce Secretary, is sadly much less than is warranted. That suggests that the Forbes 400 member will survive her confirmation hearings. And in a telling bit of synchronicity, last week some fauxgressives set about amplifying an article in the Nation that big bank lobbying efforts were the reason Dodd Frank was amounting to very little. As we’ll discuss, both reflect how much Obama supports the interests of the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, and real estate).
One of the things that Matt Stoller has stressed that the possibility of reform is remote until breaks within the elites take place.
Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia professor and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia, is a controversial figure for his neoliberal stance on macroeconomics and his role in promoting the use of “shock therapy” in emerging economies. But it is also important to recognize that criticism from a connected, respected insider has more significance than that of someone like Bill Black, who has made a career of taking on bank fraud but has never reached a top policy-making level.
I’ve taken off and on to writing about devolution, which is when the application of new technology winds up not producing net gains, but at best, questionable tradeoffs, and at worst, net negatives. The stealthy “technology” that has been applied across large businesses around the world is the relentless pursuit of efficiency, which too often takes the form of simple-minded cost cutting.
Yves here. The longer you look at the Cyprus “rescue,” the worse it looks. As you can learn from our compendium in today’s Links, the Cypriot economy is already reeling. It’s straining under the extended bank holiday, which is scheduled to end Thursday. Moreover, the impact of losses radiating from number two bank Laiki are already propagating through the island.
And that’s before we get to the wider ramifications. Whether Germany understands it or not, it has delivered a fatal blow to the Euro project. How long it continues is anyone’s guess, but the Balkanization of the financial system that the Eurocrats have set in motion means they won’t be able to go the US/Japan zombification route.
The state of play in Cyprus is that negotiations in Parliament are underway, with the hope of a yes vote on a “Plan B” today. The Cypriot officialdom has allowed for slippage in this timetable, with the bank holiday in effect till Thursday. The latest events were largely a nothingburger, aside from the big news of the failure to approve the president’s plan yesterday: European ministers confirmed that they’ll approve an agreement so long as Cyrpus obtains €5.8 billion from depositors. Monday night, President Nicos Anastasiades gave his version of the Hank Paulson armageddon speech on national TV, laying out the fact that no deal means an immediate collapse of “one bank” (presumably Liaki), and a possible exit from the Eurozone.
The widespread assumption is that the Cypriots will fall into line, since the alternative really does look even uglier. But the runway is pretty short.