Category Archives: Politics

Bill Black: The Triumph of Radical Right Economics in Greece – At the Hands of “Socialists”

In my January 18, 2015 column, I explained that German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s sweetest triumph was successfully extorting George Papandreou, Greece’s Prime Minister, head of the Greek Socialist Movemnt (PASOK), and President of the Socialist International, to inflict austerity and a war on workers’ wages on the Greek people.

In this column I explain how radically right-wing the Papandreou Plan was and the completeness with which it embraced rather than resisted the troika’s theoclassical nostrums that forced Greece, Italy, and Spain into gratuitous second Great Depressions. In Greece’s case, the Merkel Great Depression has proven more severe and longer in duration than the Great Depression of 80 years ago. The EC’s Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece description of the Papandreou Plan was accurate. The Greek leaders “strongly own and support the [austerity] programme policies and objectives.”

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Is the TransPacific Partnership Being Brought Back From the Dead?

With a new Republican Congress, and Obama himself a Republican who occasionally wears Democratic clothing, the Administration is making noise that the TransPacific Partnership and its ugly sister, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, are moving forward in a serious way.

But the Administration tried that sort of messaging last year to keep up a sense of inevitability about these regulation-gutting, mislabeleed trade deals, when reality was very different. So where do things stand?

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Is Keystone Still Viable Amid Low Oil Prices?

Keystone illustrates the kabuki that passes for politics on the so-called left. In terms of climate change issues, it’s small beer, diverting resources and attention away from much bigger issues, like the environmental damage done by fracking and the need for much more aggressive energy conservation policies. Thus by virtue of having a small number of potential beneficiaries in economic terms from the project, it’s a group that Democrats could safely afford to alienate while throwing a bone to their base. The irony, as this post points out, is that the fracas may prove to be irrelevant now that oil prices have fallen so dramatically.

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Senator Warren and America Win in a Skirmish in a Long Struggle Against Wall Street’s Coup

There is an excellent indicator that Senator Warren’s successful effort to block the appointment of Antonio Weiss, an Obama Wall Street bundler, to a senior Treasury position while merely a skirmish was an important accomplishment. The financial media that pander most slavishly to the Wall Street and the City of London’s CEOs is enraged at Warren’s success. The headline in the UK’s Business Insider reveals their angst “Elizabeth Warren Wins, The Treasury Loses.” The article doesn’t try very hard to support that headline with facts because there is no real case to support the claim.

“A number of former Treasury officials thought Warren was way out of line, and that Weiss’ experience was perfect for the position he was being nominated for.

The White House stood by its nominee throughout, stating last month, “This is somebody who has very good knowledge of the way that the financial markets work, and that is critically important.”

No argument on that here.”

Let’s begin with logic. There’s no logical way to declare that “Treasury lost” without knowing who else is willing to take the position of Under Secretary for Domestic Finance. No one thinks President Obama selected Weiss on the merits. He was selected because he bundled Wall Street campaign contributions for Obama’s campaigns. Treasury does not “win” when we appoint such people – Wall Street wins. We have no way of knowing whether Obama will select someone for the position who is better or worse than Weiss. The Undersecretary position is prestigious enough that we know that Obama has the ability to appoint hundreds of people who would like to take the position and are better qualified than Weiss. As a matter of logic, therefore, the authors could not support their claim.

The authors also don’t seem to have felt they could even try to make a case for their claim. They simply quote authority rather than reasoning. Their effort unintentionally made Warren’s opponents look bad. Consider the extraordinary arrogance of the statement “A number of former Treasury officials thought Warren was way out of line.” A U.S. Senator who is a member of Treasury’s oversight committee is completely “in line” to oppose nominees. Warren obviously did not oppose Weiss for partisan reasons. She opposed him on the merits. Weiss does not have a strong background for the skill sets required for the Undersecretary position. Again, no one can claim with a straight face that Obama selected Weiss on the merits. Of course, the same thing was true of many of the Treasury officials who think it is “way out of line” for Senators not to rubberstamp political reward-style appointments of Wall Street bundlers.

The best that the White House could come up with was that Weiss “has very good knowledge of the way that the financial markets work.” That description fits about one million Americans.

Conclusion

Warren has given Obama a golden opportunity – a “do over.” Obama can appoint someone who has a “very good knowledge of the way that the financial markets work” – and a passion for changing how they work in order to end the Wall Street culture of corruption and create radically improved markets based on integrity and service to investors with radically reduced profits. Obama could pick someone good for America, not “Treasury” and its Wall Street overseers. It is “critically important” that the financial markets be restored to a condition in which they aid Main Street and small investors rather than acting as parasites and predators.

At this juncture, the White House is signaling its continued opposition to serious reform.

“‘We continue to believe that Mr. Weiss is an extremely well-qualified individual, who is committed to the policy goals of this Administration and firmly supports the Administration’s policies on fostering economic growth and supporting our middle class. We are pleased that he has accepted the role of counselor to the Treasury secretary.’”

The administration continues its policy of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity to openly side with the American people (all of them, not simply “our middle class”) and demand the end of the corrupt culture of Wall Street. Warren has given Obama a priceless opportunity for a “do over.” No one expects Obama to do the right thing on the appointment, but Warren is doing the right thing by giving Obama a new the chance to do the right thing.

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MMT Versus the CBO: Replacing the Budget Constraint with an Inflation Constraint

Yves here. MMT, or Modern Monetary Theory, is in the process of becoming vastly more visible by virtue of leading MMT advocate, Stephanie Kelton, becoming Chief Economist on the Senate Budget Committee on behalf of ranking member Bernie Sanders. And that means, as this post demonstrates, that MMT has gone through the “first they ignore you, then they ridicule you” stages and is now in the “then then fight you” phase. And one of the chief strategies of MMT opponents is to misrepresent it.

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Yanis Varoufakis: Why He is Running for Greek Parliament on the Syriza Ticket

I’m putting up the entire Boom/Bust show in which Yanis Varoufakis appears, in part because the introductory section discusses how stressed oil producers may use secured lending to borrow more money in an effort to ride out the price bust. That would lead to a further drop in the price of any junk bonds or market value of any existing loans on those companies, since the new secured borrowing would be senior to the existing debt.

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Elizabeth Warren Takes a Scalp: Antonio Weiss Withdraws from Nomination for #3 Position at Treasury

As readers may recall, Elizabeth Warren blasted the Administration’s nomination of a Lazard executive and senior mergers & acquisitions banker Antonio Weiss to the number three Treasury psot, assistant secretary for domestic finance. Warren’s grounds for objecting to Weiss were straightforward: his experience was no fit for the requirements of his proposed Treasury role. On top of that, he had been involved in and therefore profited from acquisitions called inversions that Treasury opposes because they reduce the taxes paid by the acquirer, which uses the acquired company to move its headquarters to a lower-tax jurisdiction.

Today Weiss withdrew as a candidate for the Treasury position.

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