Links, 3/15: Some Secret Schumer-led Deregulation

Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.  You can follow him on twitter at

Reid: Senate will act on small business bills (Politico) – Ok, this is a very nasty and intricate fight that this article doesn’t cover, but I will.  Basically various industry groups in DC have been fighting to gut Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank investor protections for quite some time, because you know regulation is bad and stuff.  Also 2008 was just a dream, right?  The way they are doing it is by trying to exempt “smaller” businesses from reporting requirements in the public capital markets.  Accountants are totally expensive!  Hello penny stock scams!  Of course the Obama administration is all into this, because it fulfills the trifecta of being mildly corrupt, mostly irrelevant, and stupid. Sweet!  The House passed a bill called the JOBS Act to gut these reporting requirements.  The Senate is following up, and through a variety of procedural tricks, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is leading the effort.  Liberals in the Senate are fighting against it by proposing an alternative.  Schumer is trying to pry Senate quasi-liberal and pivotal vote Sherrod Brown into his corner with campaign cash, giving the liberal alternative a vote he’ll know will lose while getting his Wall Street friendly version through.  Sherrod Brown is up for reelection this year, and he is the single most targeted member in the country by SuperPACs.  So that’s the score.  I have been out of DC for more than a year, this makes me nostalgic.  NOT!  Boo-ya!  Made ya look!  (cries out of pity for his country)

Also, Chuck Schumer, we see you, and no one is fooled.

Killing the competition:How the new monopolies are destroying open markets (Harper’s) Spectacular and important piece by Barry Lynn of the New America Foundation.  Read.  It. Now.

Why Don’t Americans Elect Scientists? (NY Times)

Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail (Rolling Stone)

Goodbye, Texas Women’s Health Program (Firedoglake)

Legal experts predict a Supreme Court win for ‘Obamacare’ (LA Times) h/t Lambert

NYPD’s Reporting Problem (Village Voice)


Twitter Feed Bernanke’s Latest Effort to Connect (Businessweek) Oh look at the Fed and how much it wants to connect with the public.  Except when it doesn’t release internal FOMC meeting transcripts of pivotal meetings around the housing bubble and crash! Twitter!  Cute!

Wen attacks party conservatives (FT)  Whoa.

Goldman battles ‘toxic’ culture criticism (FT)  Uh, ya think?

Turner calls for radical action on shadow banking (FT)  UK’s leading bank regulator continues his radical streak of sanity.  And that’s it for the paywalled content.

The Real 2012 Race: President Obama Vs. Candidate Obama (Video) Huffington Post – this is a new series that’s going to drive the Obama campaign crazy.  And it should, because Obama promised a bunch of major stuff and went back on his word quite frequently.  Renegotiate NAFTA anyone?

Chinese Economy Already in ‘Hard Landing,’ JPMorgan’s Mowat Says (Bloomberg)

Abortion Causes Breast Cancer, New Hampshire House Declares (Huffington Post) I’m actually kind of impressed at the levels of asshole-ishness certain right-wing politicians can reach when they really try.  The Onion is going to have to up their game to keep up.

Ugandans react with anger to Kony video (Al Jazeera)

Wealth Gap on Display at China’s Parliament (CNBC)

U.S.-Korea free trade pact takes effect amid controversy (Reuters)

The Fed: A Populist Target, but Untouchable (CQ)

Ohio judge accepts Scotts Miracle-Gro guilty plea, defers decision on $4.5M payment of fine (Washington Post) h/t Lambert

Cameras at U.K. gas stations will block uninsured drivers from refueling (Yahoo News) h/t Lambert

Apple iPad review: ‘Retina Display’ technology makes screen look like glowing paper (The Washington Post)

(h/t Lambert)

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. Thomas Barton, JD

    Re the Chinese economy I knew there would be a very rocky soft landing when even CNBC carried coverage of the Chinese leadership saying that reduced growth was a virtue to be actively pursued to help the working classes. Then on Tuesday I was thunderstruck when I think Steve Liesman volunteered that the Chinese leadership was actively talking with a substantial Chairman Mao type angry and motivated communism. Liesman normally is the supreme spinMeister for all the torrents of Fed, BOE and ECB liquidity. For him to release this spontaneously must mean that the Chinese economy may have a GDP drop much like the US had from the heady peak of 1944 to the negative spike into the ground in 1945.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      When countries can share propaganda organs, that’s good news for the taxpayers, of the sharing countries.

      To share…that’s a virtue.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      By the way, all feasts must end.

      Chinese feasts, though, make you hungry for more shortly after.

      ‘Pass the Sweet and Sour Bubble, please, and make it spicier this time, OK?’

  2. Thomas Barton, JD

    Mr. Paulos writes in the Nytimes that he has visited Singapore several times and been impressed with its wealth and modernity and he lauds their proficiency in mathematics. I encourage him to rent a motorbike next time and spend three days riding 10 klicks, then 20 klicks then 30 klicks out into the countryside and see that the gleaming icon of Singapore steel and glass is much like Apple’s obscence cash hoard : it is very impressive but it doesn’t do diddly squat for the shareholders.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        One can reclaim a bit of one’s freedom back by refusing to talk about the-topics-of-the-day they want you to talk about.

        It might make you seem irrelevant, beside the point or off-topic, but you’re free.

      2. Darren Kenworthy

        Indeed, it is almost exactly 30kms from downtown Singapore to any of the causeways leaving the island.

  3. Thomas Barton, JD

    I wonder how long it will take some savvy Ugandan men and women to offer up a documentary based on the criminality of our banking system and the obscene hardships we as a consumer nation of everything mobile and digital, of those hardships that the 300,000 workers at FoxConn have endured for days, weeks, months and years. Perhaps one of them will be a lawyer who will issue an arrest warrant for the new superstar of the Twitterverse, Monsieur Helicopter Ben and promise him a fair trial much in the vein of our deranged Attorney General Eric”call me John Mitchell” Holder. I forget which is better,Eric, due process or legal process ? And when a drone fires a Hellfire missile into a sovereign nation which we have not declared war upon, is that due process or legal process ? And may not the Ugandans rightly argue that Twitterverse Ben has done much to unleash inflation upon the African continent. And if he argues that QE is but a modest part of the inflation monster well then the Ugandans might say those distinctions fall into the same vagaries as our trumpeting the virtues of due process and legal process.

    1. aet

      “…may not the Ugandans rightly argue that Twitterverse Ben has done much to unleash inflation upon the African continent?”

      No, they may not, not with justice.

      And the virtue of holding people innocent until they dividuals proven guilty of the specific crime charged to them, in and by a court of competent jurisdiction, needs a whole lot more “trumpeting”, not less, in every nation of the world.

  4. Richard Kline

    Stoller: ” . . . [T]he trifecta of being mildly corrupt, mostly irrelevant, and stupid.” Hey-hey! that with apt concision summarizes the Rubinite Creed of political pablum to which all the Nude Democrats have sworn allegiance for twenty plus years. (Not the Rubinite Prescription of economic lithium which is var more venal.) Everyone who’s anyone in the Democratic Party cuts and pastes from that templet for squwaking points when the political cycle ramps up and something is needed to hawk to the boardroom set.

    And ‘Why don’t Americans elect scientists?’ The scientists aren’t stupid enough. Eggheads who stick at facts embarass everyone and can’t draw a crowd. Not that scientists can’t be stupid, but they like to get facts before they misinterpret them, and in American political society of today that approach drives the microphone set crazy and is electoral arsenic.

      1. tom allen

        Like “mildew” it starts out “mild” and then grows exponentially, corrupting the entire House. Ew. Fresh air and sunlight are, as usual, the best disinfectants.

  5. Econ Guy

    Case in point, Steven Chu who, rightfully, said that high gas prices would create economic incentives for alternative energy.

    Now that he’s in charge of the country’s nukes, he has to backpedal, even though such a developement would be better in the long term for the American consumer.

  6. dearieme

    What happened recently when distinguished scientist Jim Watson delivered himself of what were, in his view, a few obvious truths?

    1. Carlton

      Genetics only apply to gay people, for all the others, it’s environment. Didn’t you read the memo?

  7. vlade

    Re killing the competition:
    I’m always amused when the free-marketers dislike big government and want to protect economic status quo at the same time.

    Fundamentally, there’s no difference as to why big governments get corrupted and why big corporations get corrupted – it’s all the good ol’ positive feedback & self-selection based on ambition and pushinnes.

    That said, it works both ways – so if you’re a leftist scorching big corrupted corporations, belief that a big good government can exist is about as rational as that of the free-market fundamentalist above.

  8. Lambert Strether

    Great Harper’s article, all about greed and fear. Greed for the 1%. Fear for the 99%. See under Boot, Human Face, Forever. Or not!

    * * *


    The broiler industry was one of the first in which the generation of monopolists unleashed by Ronald Reagan succeeded in replacing open markets with vertically integrated systems designed to be controlled by a single local buyer. The men who rule America’s chicken-processing plants have therefore had decades to master the art of setting individual farmers—who still own the land, equipment, and liabilities—against one another. And the goal of this competition is not merely to extract the most work from each individual, but also the most capital. …

    The concept of such competitions—or “tournaments,” as the industry calls them—is generally credited to the economist Edward Lazear, who served as one of George W. Bush’s top advisers and now teaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The idea, first laid out in a 1981 paper titled “Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts,” is straightforward enough. Rather than pay all workers at the same rate for any particular task, Lazear wrote, why not set up a “labor market contest,” in which those who produce more also get paid more per task or per piece? …

    A 2003 study of tournament theory by economists Tom Coupé, Valérie Smeets, and Frédéric Warzynski, which builds explicitly on Lazear’s work, makes this point painfully clear. “Tournaments take place,” the authors explain, “in the context of an internal labor market with no explicit role for outside options.”

    The political aim of tournaments, in other words, is exactly opposed to that of real markets. Citizens structure markets, first and foremost, to protect individuals from massed capital. Lazear’s tournaments are designed to maximize return to capital. They do so precisely by setting individual citizens against each other, like cocks in a pit. …

    Weaver dares to talk openly only because he possesses a measure of financial independence. “I can speak because I don’t need the company,” he says. “They can cut me off tomorrow and I have enough saved up so I won’t go flat-out bankrupt.” But this is not true for many of the farmers who sell chickens to the Moorefield plant, he adds. “They have nowhere else to go. They have to take what they’re given.”

    “They have nowhere else to go.”

    Exactly what the Ds tell the left.

    There’s a reason that legacy party politics and giant monopolies run by oligarchs suggest the same catch phrases: They are the same. Not just alike, but the same.

    1. redleg

      Direct hit. The D’s are not an alternative to the R’s. They are two sides of the same bank note. Upsurping the status quo requires a new currency (metaphorically and literally).

    2. Let em lose

      Word +1. Word cubed. Factorial Word(!) The parties are parastatals with delegated state responsibility that collude to force free civil society down the party cattle chutes to absorb and dissipate reform impulses. You can see their entryist attacks on every occupy meeting in the country, wearing lots of different disguises, Progressive Democrats of America, “Occupy” candidates, &c., &c., every flavor of the same smushy crap. Before we got a grip on slavery, the Whigs had to die off and get supplanted by more militant free-soilers. Before we get a grip on modern kleptocracy and debt peonage, the Dems will have to die off too.

    3. Carlton

      Reregister your self as “Decline to State” where and when you can.

      When the D’s and the R’s start disappearing, then the politicans are going to have to earn your vote. Or learn to lie in a more sophisticated and and more easily impeached fashion.

      Work for proportional representation.

      Fight open primaries that lead to top vote getters going to the general election.

      1. Let em lose

        I was there, in the decline-to-state zone, in like 2002 but now I’ve moved on to the subversion and parallel government zone. It’s not just electoral rot – repression of independent parties and definition of the franchise as your money, not your vote. Every state authority seeps pus.

        – Judiciary: corrupt and totalitarian, top to bottom, Justice Thomas to rocket dockets.
        – DoJ: rotten to the core (The Schuelke Report, holy crap!).
        – DoD/CIA/NSA: mindlessly murderous, out of control, and driven solely by their paper-pushing rivalry.
        – Legislature: dedicated exclusively to peculation, malversation and suppression of public discourse.
        – Regulatory agencies: stripped of capacity and securely bought.

        When this happens in Africa you shovel out, you you mobilize the world to purge, then twin and train for months, you blanket the populace with educational media, you rebuild the state from scratch with a new constitution and poverty-reduction goals. But here that’s not gonna happen till we lose a decades-long third world war or something.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In a long time ago, they believed in electing, not scientists but, philosophers.

      Maybe that debate was over by the Middle Ages.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One more.

      Personally, I encounter more often fancy-dressing scientists than fancy-dressing philosophers. Science buildings are more likely to be gaudier than philosophy departments.

      1. JTFaraday

        That’s so upper admin isn’t melting into its shoes in embarrassment when it brings in prospective corporate sponsors.

        (Your tuition dollars at work).

  9. gs_runsthiscountry

    The Muppets video clip was a nice touch – the irony.

    No commentary on the recent GS op-ed piece, my “handle” says it – nuff said. Though, given Jamie Dimons recent behavior, maybe a handle change is in order – to jpm_runsthiscountry? Larry Fink perhaps? I digress


    In other news, for those that have not seen this, Tide is a new currency, and is taking money laundering to new levels:


  10. Jessica

    “Killing the competition:How the new monopolies are destroying open markets”

    I agree. Read it. I am speechless.

    1. alex

      Agreed. One of the best articles I’ve ever read. Makes the point covering industries as diverse as hi-tech, poultry, beer and books. Covers the history and the effects. All in a short article. Hats off to the author.

    2. JTFaraday

      “To understand the true architecture of power in our America of 2012, we must set down the hymnals of the economists and speak directly to those of us who strive every day to make, to grow, to build, to serve— but who find that some immense power blocks their way.

      Take the craft-beer brewer I met recently in Chicago. Worshipped by his ever-thirsty fans, he grinned proudly for a photo shoot as I watched from the sidelines. But in the privacy of the hotel hallway, he whispered about how Anheuser-Busch InBev is slowly strangling his company. The multinational colossus controls much of the beer distribution in the United States and has a huge influence over who rides those rails. “When I want to get my beer on a store shelf, I don’t call the retailer,” he explains. “I have to beg ABI.””

      Yeah, I’d much rather hear something about this guy (and his business challenges) than hear all about the latest installation of the i-Pad– over and over again, from everyone.

      Although, I suppose the i-Pad is a good jumping off point to Foxconn, and the ultimate futility of China Envy, (a phenomenon I continue to find perplexing).

      That’s the real story there. The i-Pad itself is so over.

  11. Dale

    You think pesticide in Scott’s birdseed is bad?

    Three Approved GMOs Linked to Organ Damage

    Three varieties of Monsanto’s GM corn – Mon 863, insecticide-producing Mon 810, and Roundup® herbicide-absorbing NK 603 – were approved for consumption by US, European and several other national food safety authorities.

    The data used for this approval, ironically, is the same data that independent researchers studied to make the organ damage link….

    The data “clearly underlines adverse impacts on kidneys and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, as well as different levels of damages to heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system,” reported Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen.

    The Committee for the Right to Know is a grassroots coalition of consumer, public health, environmental organizations, and food companies in California that is seeking the labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs).
    On November 9, 2011, the coalition submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to the State Attorney General for title and summary, prior to circulation as an initiative measure for the November 2012 election.

    Get out there and sign the petition if you are a California voter.

    1. Lambert Strether

      The birdseed is bad, even if other things are worse.

      What I especially like is the picture of a lot of nice old ladies enjoying the birds in their yards in the winter, as Scott silently makes them accomplices in poisoning the very birds they wished to feed. Seems like that metaphor could apply to a lot of situations.

      Also, I don’t imagine for a single second this is the only bit of fraud going on at Scott — if they’re anything like Golden Sachs or JP Morgan or the rest of the “savvy businessmen.”

      So, when or if you’re in the garden store, think twice about buying from Scott and buy local whenever you can.

  12. redleg

    The financial collapse is a symptom of political failure. Repair the politics and the economy will essentially right itself. So what is the common political denominator? Size. Corporations are too big. Government is too big. The concentration of power beautifully documented in the Harpers article is all related to size.
    We need to use government power to destroy cartel power, as the legal system is the only reasonable alternative to the Paris 1793 or Feudalism 2.0 engames that I see as otherwise inevitable.

  13. thump

    “Turner calls for radical action” FT link is same as “Goldman battles toxic culture” FT link.

  14. Susan the other

    Taibbi on BAC. Good synopsis. Infuriating. I keep wondering about the vacuum of information from 1980 to 2007 when the shit finally hit the fan. During those years, the failure of the Soviet Union should have been a better lesson because it collapsed due to bad spending habits, but on a much simpler level. During those years, Mitt Romney raided every corporation Bain could rape and so did all the other “venture capitalists” who were not really interested in capital ventures. During those years third world countries defaulted on their odious loans left and right and then they began to compete seriously with the “first” worlders. During those years Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher turned out thousands of mentally ill patients to live on the streets. Inflation soared and not even Paul Volker could tame it. They just said he did. But he only put up a please slow down sign. And labor was crushed. Answer me why those years, 1980 to 2007, saw the implosion of capitalism without uttering a single word or passing a single law.

    1. JerseyJeffersonian

      For some useful honest-to-God investigative journalism revelatory of some of the pernicious trends afoot in America’s economy back in the time period to which you refer, read Barlett & Steele’s – America: What Went Wrong. These two journalists originally wrote the kernel of what was to become this book for a series published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Of course, that was when the Inquirer was a McClatchy paper, and hadn’t fallen to its current low estate as a vehicle for wire service articles, a modicum of local-interest articles, and major league purveyance of conventional wisdom on its editorial pages. Ack.

      1. LucyLulu

        That was back in the day when you could read investigative journalism in all the major newspapers. The owner of the paper doesn’t matter, investigative journalism in newspapers has gone extinct, exchanged for tidbits of news mixed with messaging au jour.

  15. Glenn Condell

    Interesting juxtaposition of headlines in the Sydney Morning Herald today. Top story is ‘Indonesia urges calm over rise of China’

    and top National story is ‘Barnaby Joyce breaks ranks over foreign ownership of farmland’

    First is pitched as a ‘a veiled reference to the proposed US Marine deployment to the Northern Territory’ and has a photo of new Foreign Minister Carr, a noted Yankophile with his Indonesian counterpart, but there is more concern here about the economic impacts of Chinese imperialism than the military side of things.

    Joyce, a maverick country pol who opens his mouth according to what his mind tells it rather than put everything through the sort of filter that turns most of them into robots, has expressed this concern, The article mentions a few recent takeovers with only one Chinese inclusion but that seems misleading.

    The other tasty aspect here is that the Foreign Investment Review Board is according to Joyce ‘full of merchant bankers, which might explain why the only time we have seen it say no is with the takeover of the Australian Stock Exchange, because that would have meant a lot of merchant bankers in Sydney would be out of a job … even some of my Liberal colleagues were encouraging me to speak up about that, even though we are supposed to be nasty, backward agrarian socialists,” he said.’

    Joyce sits at the other end of my political spectrum but I do appreciate bluntness in a politician. It’s like finding a truffle in a garbage dump.

  16. Glen

    The Hero,The Villain (I guess you take your pick) Altantic profile on Bernanke:

    Looks like a puff piece to pump him and the Fed up as saviors of the world.

    I won’t dispute that he saved the banks, but he did nothing to reform the banks, or knock out the bad ones, or reduce their political power, so he’s just set us up for a more ugly replay at some point in the future.

    Good way to save the current mess, but it bypasses the real question:

    Was the current mess worth saving?

  17. J.

    I find the Harper’s article mentioning how the poor little publishers were getting repressed by Amazon’s monopoly particularly interesting because it was announced a few days ago that five big publishers and Apple were being investigated by the DOJ for price-fixing.

    I don’t see any other reason than price fixing that would explain why the paperback version often costs less than the ebook, despite the higher printing and distribution costs of the printed book. Another advantage to the buyer is the ease of reselling or sharing a printed book compared to an ebook. This should also lower the ebook’s price relative to a printed book.

    In fact, some independents are selling ebooks much cheaper than $9.99. Baen Books is a smaller (sci-fi) publisher that has quite a few titles available for $6 without DRM. Plus, Baen makes a number of back catalogue titles available for free. And they sell the ebooks directly from their website without going through Amazon.

    1. LucyLulu

      Thanks! Great link! Its been strongly suspected that mortgages were being deposited in multiple trusts. However, as far as I know, this is the first time there has been this type of clear and compelling hard proof.

    2. Antipodeus

      You beat me to it! This issue appeared @ 4Closure Fraud a couple of days ago, but then it strangely disappeared. I finally got emailed that the release had been premature, & that they had more analysis to do. Expect it to explode in the near-future. Finally, some definitive PROOF, rather than just ‘anecdotal evidence’.

  18. Benedict@Large

    Re: Legal experts predict a Supreme Court win for “Obamacare”

    Of course this bill will pass SCOTUS muster. It was written by the insurers and for the insurers, and when implemented as is will stop single payer for at least another 2 decades. SCOTUS has their instructions, and they will obey.

    BTW, the GOP isn’t at all serious about killing ObamaCare (although individual front men may believe this is so.) If they were, there are MAJOR flaws in the bill they could expose that would make the public SCREAM for its repeal. That the GOP hasn’t done this stands as proof they are not serious about the repeal. In fact, the only reason for the SCOTUS case is to get the bill “constitutionalized” BEFORE the people find out what a total scam it is.

    [Note: I’m a former group health insurance industry insider.]

    1. LucyLulu

      Care to share what the major flaws are?

      And nope, I’m not a fan. It doesn’t address costs in any meaningful way which is the fundamental problem. When we have so many successful models of more efficient and less expensive means of providing care in the world around us, I don’t understand why we insist on inventing our own different kind of (square) wheel.

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