Monthly Archives: March 2009

Can Geithner’s public-private partnership get it done?

Edward Harrison of Credit Writedowns, posted this article on which dissects the government’s plan to buy up to 1.4 trillion dollars worth of toxic assets that are clogging up the banks balance sheets. This is an effort to stimulate the credit market, that if successful should partially revitalize the economy and reduce the fear of both lenders and consumers. In Harrison’s words “To cut to the chase, I believe this strategy could be successful in rekindling some increasing credit liquidity and, therefore, some consumer demand.” This program which runs the risk of inflation and catastrophic consequences has many opponents, but for now this is the course of action President Obama and his staff are going with. So at this point, whether you like it or not this is happening.

This program reflects a socialistic change, and at this point the American public will eat up anything that has the word change associated with it.  Harrison looks at four factors that will eventually decide our aggressive President’s fate. “The success of Geithner’s plan, the efficacy of the economic stimulus, ability to connect with the disenfranchised, and the will-in setting political agenda,” are the four crucial factors. First and foremost Geithner’s much criticized plan is essentially a miss or hit plan, and its failure could cloud our President’s term. Not to mention the reluctant support of this plan would essentially cease to exist if the administration prepares for another round of money pumping.

I have said often that Obama’s stimulus will not be sufficient given the state of the economy. Recently revised budget projections from the Congressional Budget Office confirm this — the budget deficit, therefore, will be significantly worse than originally projected. Nevertheless, the Japanese experience in the 1990s demonstrates that even a depressionary economy can experience brief respites from economic turmoil. This could be Obama’s saving grace.

The stimulus plan which has also been embraced with mostly ridicule, will be a crucial component in establishing credibility for President Obama’s administration. What concerns me more is a man that based his entire campaign on bringing change hasn’t deviated much from the norm. If you ask me the “too big too save” mentality has crippled Capitalism. Rather than letting these financial institutions fail, and letting the market hit a bottom we are prolonging economic stability. Also the president’s barrage of bailouts, have perhaps willingly aligned him with Wall Street rather than Main Street. It is only a matter of time before our humble president’s agenda is brought into question.

In my view, the Obama Administration, through its actions to date, has already politically cast its lot with the monied class. On Obama’s watch, we have the Citigroup situation, the Bank of America bailout, the Merrill Lynch bonus scandal, the AIG bailout and bonus scandal, the furore over golf tournaments and the backdoor bailouts under TALF and the Public-Private Partnership. All of these events demonstrate a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the monied interests of the financial sector. Yes, none of these events individually is a fatal problem. However, taken as a collective, the preponderance of evidence points toward an Administration which will increasingly be seen as more aligned with Wall Street than Main Street. This is a catastrophe for a man who campaigned on “Change you can believe in.”

Moving back to our analysis of the new public-private partnership plan, it s truly in my opinion a bit too optimistic. Now first of all the program heavily relies on its ability to draw interest from the private sector( private investors, hedge funds etc…). The administration plans to accomplish this by offering low interest financing and also harboring a substantial amount of any potential losses. However, this plan revolves around creating a market for the toxic assets, but it seems as if the government is failing to accurately account for how bad these assets truly are. Meredith Whitney formerly of AIG who called this crisis in the summer has approximated these assets to be about 7-8 trillion.  Not to mention the administration has failed to take into account further bad news from other financial sectors. The crisis which eventually initiated only in the subprime mortgage market, spread like wildfire through the disturbingly unregulated financial derivatives market.

Unfortunately, Geithner’s view is not a correct interpretation of events. While prices have declined considerably in a number of markets, often to excessively low levels, there are many other assets which will become impaired going forward or have been impaired, but have yet to be written down. Commercial Real Estate, credit cards and prime mortgages are all distressed markets where one should anticipate further writedowns. So, even if the Treasury’s interpretation of events is correct — that many asset prices have fallen too far — it is irrelevant because there are so many more writedowns still to come.

What I fear most is that if this plan fails Obama might not get another chance. On the administation’s part I think they need to start living up to the promises they made. President Obama said his battle to revive the economy would be transparent. So far it has been anything but that, it is harder than ever to assess what his happening behind the closed doors of the Oval office. Perhaps he should also avoid speaking four times a weak, especially with the market swinging like a pendelum on his every word. I am siding with Harrison’s view of being “on-board” with this plan purely because it’s happenng and this might be our only shot at a resolution. So as the world anticapates the end of this recession I shall be watching along, with my fingers crossed.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

“financial journalists fail upward”

I am reading an article from naked capitalism-an original post from The Huffington Post. This article echoes Jon Steward’s recent criticisms of CNBC superstar Jim Cramer and the entire network for acting like market cheerleaders rather than financial journalists. Thomas Frank, a Wall Street journal columnist, argues that financial journalism was an upward failure.

The reasons the financial-entertainment biz failed us are many and complex, but they ultimately come down to this: In the marketplace to describe the marketplace itself, there is precious little competition. There is a single, standard product that comes in packaging that is alternately sultry, energetic or fun — bitter, brainy or Cramer “crazy” — but which rarely strays beyond certain ideological boundaries. Adversarial voices are few. Criticism is sacrificed for access. Advice sometimes shades over into simple propaganda. Even the worst prognosticators sometimes go on to jobs with presidential campaigns or prominent think tanks.

Whether the experts at the TV’s No.1 financial news network knew what was going on behind the scenes on Wall Street and could have warned the public of the meltdown coming is debatable, but nobody can deny that they abandoned their journalistic duties and acted more like market cheerleaders. CNBC superstar Jim Cramer was very clever at downplaying his role on The Daily Show. By downplaying his role, he can absolve himself of any responsibility for the meltdown.

We know — or we think we know — about the roles played by other culprits in the debacle. The government regulators, for example: How could they have ignored the coming disaster? Well, they were incapacitated by decades of deregulation. What about the market’s own watchdogs? Well, from appraisers to ratings agencies the whole tough-minded system was apparently undermined by conflicts of interest. But what about the syndicated columnists and the beloved stock pickers and the authors of personal finance best-sellers, the industry for which CNBC is the perfect symbol? How did they manage to miss the volcano under their feet?

A former CNBC anchor said, “ they didn’t uncover the lies that were told to them. Nobody did. But they should be held to a higher responsibility.” Jon Steward’s criticisms of CNBC are not out of line as some would have us believed. Before the bust, it paid off being market cheerleaders than financial journalists. Clueless pundits and those who abandoned their journalistic duties were getting to the top while the few adversarial voices who saw the meltdown coming were being excluded and even ridiculed.

But the larger problem won’t go away. And it’s not just a matter of people missing the biggest economic story of the last 20 years. It’s a matter of those who minimized it and those who blew it off because it didn’t fit their worldview continuing in their plum positions of authority. Mr. Stewart wasn’t rude enough to ask it, but over all his inquiries there hung the obvious question: Why do you still have a job, Mr. Cramer?

Franks seems to have answered his own question, “if the world of financial infotainment can itself be described as a “market,” it is a market where accountability does not seem to exist, where the heaviest of incentives seems to carry no weight, and where consumers, to judge by what they get, seem constantly to choose the lousy over the good. The old order discredits itself, but the old order persists nevertheless.” Whatever happens next, Steward’s criticisms certainly raised serious question about the experts at TV’s No.1 financial news network.

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Fannie Mae Lets Renters Stay Despite Foreclosures

I remember when I was talking to couple of my friends back in 2005 about housing market while it was booming. Everyone of us thought buying property and how well market is doing and how we may not be able to buy anything in next 5 years if prices will keep this way. However we were all mistaken and specially most of the entrepreneurs got in to this housing bubble, who invested everything they had. Today a lot them have properties which, are rent out to tenants and who’s houses are going for closure because of the landlord mistake.


 “There are renters all around the country who have been holding up their end of the bargain and paying their rent faithfully, but the landlord got into trouble, and so the renter is now unfairly facing eviction,”


Yes a lot of tenets who have probably lost their apartment because their building or house went for closure, mean while they have been paying their rent regularly and it not their fault , that their landlord got in to the housing bubble. However when I read this article, which made me breath little bit easy where Fannie Mae decides to let the tenants to live in their apartment even after for closure until the property is resold to new investors.


            Fannie Mae owned 67,500 properties in foreclosure at the end of September, according to the company’s most recent filings. Most of those were owner-occupied. Under the new policy, former owners will most likely not be eligible to rent homes they lost in foreclosure”.

How far did we go , with the housing dream , where some of the entrepreneurs made $100,000.00 in three months, the whole market was like dream come thru for most of the business owners , everyone became a landlord in few past years. But can we imagen how many landlord just got exploding in the housing market , how many of them could lead tenant to be without their home, where will al this tenants have to go , how could they find their regular house while market is in the edge of explosure.

“While it may be sometimes tougher for us to sell a property when people are in it, we understand that lots of people are in tough situations right now,” said Chuck Greener, a Fannie Mae spokesman. “If a renter wants to stay in their home, we’ll make that happen. And if they want to move out, in many cases we’ll help them pay for the move.”

When I read this article it made me feel little better, however how many more of the tenants who are not living in the properties own by Fannie Mae , who must move out as soon as their house when for closures , who were paying their rent without delays and what is their fault in here?



Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Medical Students, the Next Advertising Frontier

In class we have spoken about many different financialized markets, most of who have some aspect of unproductive labor driving up their profits.  The article, Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary in the New York Times explains this aspect within the pharmaceutical market.

The article exposes the intimate ties between the large pharmaceutical companies, like Merck and Pfizer, and medical schools, specifically Harvard.  The once prestigious school is now seen as one of the most corrupt because of its excessive acceptance of industry funds.  As more and more professors disclose their industry ties students are left feeling much like this first year student says:

“We are really being indoctrinated into a field of medicine that is becoming more and more commercialized.”

She is justified in her feelings.  It is unfortunate to think that when these students step into their  pharmaceuticals 101 class, they are in store for nothing more than a long infomercial.  Having paid consultants as professors is the epitome of unproductive labor for these corporations.  They are able to get their advertisers into some of the most influential positions available.  This generates both more profits not only from consumers but also by creating a new set of commissioned marketers for their drugs, the new doctors who are being convinced that these drugs are the best to proscribe for a given sets of symptoms.  It seems like a smart move on the part of the pharmaceuticals that also give millions of dollars to help fund research at the school. It begs the question that the article in a sense leaves hanging: are the ties all bad?  On one hand there is the bias representation of drugs to the impressionable minds of America’s future doctors.  As one student suggests:

“I felt really violated,” Mr. Zerden, now a fourth-year student, recently recalled. “Here we have 160 open minds trying to learn the basics in a protected space, and the information he was giving wasn’t as pure as I think it should be.”

Or perhaps there are some benefits to be gained (other than profits) by this marriage of pharmaceutical corporations and medical schools.  Thanks to all the funding the schools receive there is more opportunity for research grants and thus more stimulation for future innovation. Perhaps the opportunities out way the cost of intellectual honesty.  As one doctor explains,

“Without the support of the private sector, we would not have been able to develop what I call our ‘bone team’ in our lab”

The ‘bone team’ she mentions is sponsored by Merck to develop a follow-up drug to Fosamax, which just went generic.  So it seems that thanks to Merck the are the funds available for more doctors to do more research and develop more drugs that hopefully will be better than any of those already on the market.  The key here though is the hope.  There is no gaurantee that the researchers are doing nothing more than developing a replacement to the ‘gone generic’ drugs.  The findings might not find anything remarkable but the professor/consultants will talk up these new drugs, pushing the side effects out of the picture, and promoting it as better than any generic on the market and therefore keep the cycle of profit pumping back to the pharmaceuticals.

The cycle also reminds me of lobbying, another source of unproductive labor constantly under the ethical microscope.  But I think that a lesson can be learned from the corruption of lobbying, that with every restriction placed on the amount of money a politician can accept, a new loophole is found by a lobbyist.  I think that Harvard needs a lot more than a few regulations to fix this mess and full disclosure might not be the end all solution, although it is a modest start.

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Interesting Video (some parts)

Although this video may at first seem like a conspiracy theory, some of the people in it speaks about some practices of capitalism.

One of the most interesting parts of this video comes at 57:18 where one of the guys explains how the “federal reserve” is a private bank that bankrupted the United States, and since then our government have been controlled by that private bank.

I’m not a big supporter of conspiracy theories, but this the the same thing that happens to third world countries with the IMF and the World Bank.

The Obama Deception

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Interesting Video (some parts)

“Four Crises of the Contemporary World Capitalist System”

Ga Young (Gina) Jeon

Professor Jesse Goldstein

“Four Crises of the Contemporary World Capitalist System”

Author: William K. Tabb


Before constructing an outline for this article, I’d like to inform you that Tabb approaches the financial analyses with the motivation to “inform progressive governments and movements for social change (1).” Tabb critiques the contemporary crises in four distinct yet inter-related reasons. He states the following:


            “Crisis one: Financialization and Financial Crisis:


Tabb says:

The first problem is the financial turbulence that has gripped the economy of the United States and has had widespread effects. It is a crisis that further discredits mainstream Anglo-American economics. I do not know that it is the crisis of capitalism. For this to be the case it would not only have to become much deeper, but its impacts would have to be felt more dramatically as a systemic failurea deep and painful crisis will be, at best, only the occasion for reforming and not abolishing capitalism (1).



Tabb indicates that the “financial meltdown” has already begun. He begins to question whether or not “financial capitalism can sustain itself.” Tabb mentions two critiques that he feels our financial system is experiencing: the first one being that “capitalism is mutating (Martin Wolfe),” and the second stating that our economy is in a “new hybrid phase: monopoly-finance capital (John Bellamy Foster).”  Tabb makes a legitimate argument in stating that:


the financial sector gained leverage over the rest of the economy, in effect gaining the power to dictate priorities to debtors, vulnerable corporations, and governments. As its power grew, it could demand greater deregulation, allowing it to grow still further and endangering the stability of the larger economic system (2).”


Basically, Investors made a large sum of money by investing at risk. Investors began to follow the M-M’ circuit, “in which money could be made solely out of money, without the intervention of actual production (2).” As a matter of a fact, globally, investors borrowed money at low interest rates and “invested in high return U.S. financial assets, junk bonds, and derivatives of all sorts (2).” Many investors began to follow this money-making strategy. As a result of this, we are currently experiencing a financial crisis.


The diagram below may help you to better understand why the facts stated above became a large burden on our economy.




Borrowed money à  purchased more than they could afford à bidding up prices à debt


Sadly, this cycle continues producing more debt than manageable. Tabb views this process as a bubble ready to pop.


Tabb says that:


Financialization as an accumulation strategy has brought not only severe crisis with the failure of financial markets but has put the United States in a position resembling that of a poor nation in debt to foreign creditors—its currency declining, its trade policies favoring elites, and its government demanding that some taxpayers pay more to recapitalize the financial system while providing more tax cuts to the affluent and corporations (2).


Basically, while our country is in major debt, it doesn’t fail to discriminate the lower class. It continues to deprive its less fortunate citizens of their needs and fortunes. As a result of this, the financial cycle chokes itself. The circulation (circulation = money) is cut off. Thus, the working class is left to pick and fight over jobs and basic human rights.


Tabb suggests that there is a connection between the following:


Financialization + rising inequalities + declining economic fortunes


It stinks for the working class because seemingly, our government is controlled by corporations and the wealthy. Pessimism dwells among the citizens of the working class.


1.  Corporations bring production of goods and services to foreign countries where they can pay less skilled workers less money to do more work.

            2.  The development of technology continuously puts workers out of work.

3. It is difficult for unions to form because even if a strike breaks out, because of the demand for jobs, the corporations can just hire new people for less money (credited to the National Labor relations board).


Furthermore, it is ironic that


“The U.S. forces its financial regime and rules on the developing world through the mediation of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, but capital has been expanding financial operations into the so-called emerging markets. Now we see a meltdown on Wall Street and the irony of foreign sovereign wealth funds and other investors having to rescue the pillars of the U.S. financial empire. How should we understand these contradictory developments? This is a political question. It needs to be answered like any other economic matter in which a small elite benefit at the expense of the many (3).”


To the foreign countries, America must look like a greedy pig that fell because it could no longer sustain its own weight. In cases like this one, it is very likely that countries that once conformed to the capitalist patterns of the U.S. will begin to defend their own interests.




            “Crisis two: U.S Imperialism- Losing Hegemony:


Tabb says:

A second crisis is that of U.S.-led imperialism, which has been discredited both in terms of its regime-change-wars-of-choice and the increasingly effective resistance to the international financial and trade regime we know as the Washington Consensus. Because of the incalculable harm neoliberalism has done, and continues to do, it is now ideologically on the defensive.




There are so many controversies that continue to be debated at the present moment. Tabb indicates that especially after the failure in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. has been discredited domestically and abroad. The U.S. elites utilize times of war as a means for making profit. Tabb specifically mentions key figures in the government: Vice President Cheney, Robert Rubin, and Donald Rumsfeld as recent political figures heavily involved in profit making during times of war abroad. The recent complaint is that the U.S. not only lost Iraq, but jeopardized the stability situations in Afghanistan. In addition, U.S. failed to prioritize domestic needs such as adequate jobs and health care. As a result of this, U.S. credibility declined immensely.


Tabb also mentions the role of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) that brought “instability, not growth” to the areas facing the financial crisis.

Furthermore, Tabb points out that U.S. continually “cradles” the mistakes; and never takes the initiative to “correct” it.


Increasingly, groups fight against traditional imperial powers because it benefits them in NO way. For example: the IMF works in the favor of the elite, ignoring the dire needs of the people in the given country.


Well, Tabb says: “WAKE UP AMERICA!” because the developing countries are no longer going to follow the U.S. like blind sheep. The Banco del Sur serves as a perfect example in this case.


The Banco del Sur operates on a one country, one vote principle and, building on the Venezuelan Bank for Economic and Social Development priorities, favors cooperatives and community ownership, offering below-market interest rates to public and social enterprises. With a proposed capitalization of seven billion dollars, it represents a serious challenge to the U.S.-controlled Bretton Woods Institutions as well as the Washington-dominated neoliberal Inter-American Bank.


The weak dollar also serves as a symbol of this “break down.”


The advantage the United States has enjoyed by being able to borrow in its own currency has been undercut by abuse, outsized current account deficits, and the buildup of dollars in foreign hands. This has progressed to the point where the money creation and lower U.S. interest rates implemented by the Federal Reserve to stave off financial collapse have driven down the currency’s value and encouraged further flight from the dollar.

As a result of this, the Euro could become a more important reserve currency than the dollar.


            “Crisis three: The New Centers of Power:


Tabb says:


A third point of crisis is the rise of new centers of power in what had been the peripheries of the capitalist system and the tensions this has unleashed, providing room to maneuver for countries wishing to break with the United States.




By “new centers of power” Tabb is referring to the “E7” (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, and Turkey) Tabb says that the “E7 is 25 percent larger than the current G-7 and will be driving the growth of the global economy.” Some of the key countries that Tabb points out are:


China: “Beijing Consensus”

This is based on “respect for sovereignty and mutual economic benefit….. is widely appealing as an alternative to Washington’s version of spreading democracy and the “free” market by means of violence.


“SCO” (Shanghai Cooperative Organization) – energy conservation program in which U.S. was denied membership.



Selling advanced military systems while working with China and India on energy conservation.


“Oil access/control”


            “Crisis four: Resources and Sustainability:


Tabb says:

A fourth area of crisis has to do with resource usage, the uneven distribution of the necessities of life, and a growth paradigm that is no longer sustainable. Here grassroots social movements in South Africa and elsewhere are leading actors in resisting privatizations and the imposition of a hyper-individualism that brings disaster for the most oppressed and exploited.




Tabb states a valid argument in stating that “the sustainability of human life is simply not consistent with inherently wasteful capitalist growth.” There is so much pressure being added to the resource base of the planet. There is an important need for ecological development. Tabb indirectly suggests to the United States that there is a need for sincerely assisting developing countries instead of throwing them short-term solutions that serve them no long-term benefit.  


For example:


Malawi, which for years hovered at the brink of famine, with five million of its thirteen million people needing emergency food aid after a disastrous 2005 maize harvest, decided to subsidize its poor farmers and was soon exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of maize thanks to the help it gave the farmers, whose yields grew dramatically. The United States, while willing to provide food aid from its agricultural surplus (grown with huge federal subsidies to U.S. farmers), refuses to assist farmers in poor countries. Even as it insists that they follow the free market, the United States undermines the ability of third-world farmers to compete by dumping free or low-cost agricultural exports in their countries.



The prices of grains continued to rise. As a result, America began to sellwhite flour, corn sweeteners, and corn-fed animal fats is replacing traditional diets for too many of the world’s people. Refined sugars create obesity and promote diseases such as diabetes by replacing the complex nutrients of traditional foods. The uncontrolled profit motive is destroying health and increasing medical costs dramatically as it poisons its customers with adulterated and unhealthy foods (9).”


Tabb shows that U.S. profit motives degrade the quality of lives of the people of other countries. He goes on further to say that media blinds our eyes from seeing the pain that capitalism causes in our profit driven world.



It’s so interesting to me how easily the “human genome” is bought by corporations and the elite. I mean, this article just reveals that there are so many alternative stories beyond the ones that we are “fed” by each morning through corporate owned news channels. It sucks that the elite have to be so selfish. But, in my opinion, the corporations and the elite are enslaved as well. They are enslaved to this competition driven market in which they’ve created. It’s almost as if they’ve created a monstrous creature that now lives on bullying the world market, thus creating instability and continually perpetuating social inequality. (Think about our current financial crisis.) How in the world are rights legitimized? Who determines who should, and who should not have basic human rights? Inequality is continually fostered in this capitalistic-profit driven market. And, yes, it stinks.. This article articulates a perspective that is hardly ever exposed to ordinary American citizens. It’s sad to think about the damage and inequality that U.S. continues to foster globally. It’s something to think about. Are you also a product of this capitalistic society?



You may find the article on the site stated below:


Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments

“Why the U.S. stimulus package is bound to fail”

When looking for an article to read I always look for a first paragraph that grabs me.  In the article entitled ” Why the U.S stimulus package is bound to fail” by David Harvey this exactly what happened.  Harvey like a very intelligent man compares the financial crisis to an earthquake.

“Much is to be gained by viewing the contemporary crisis as a surface eruption generated out of deep tectonic shifts in the spatio-temporal disposition of capitalist development. The tectonic plates are now accelerating their motion and the likelihood of more frequent and more violent crises of the sort that have been occurring since 1980 or so will almost certainly increase. The manner, form, spatiality and time of these surface disruptions are almost impossible to predict, but that they will occur with greater frequency and depth is almost certain. The events of 2008 have therefore to be situated in the context of a deeper pattern.”

The thing that truly scares me is that just like an earthquake this financial crisis will eventually go away with time, but also like an earthquake the financial crisis will come back again, stronger than ever.

“But tectonic shifts of this sort do not come about as if by magic. While the historical geography of a shifting hegemony as Arrighi describes it has a clear pattern and while it is also clear from the historical record that periods of financialization precede such shifts”

Later in the article Harvey attempts to take a keynesian point of view explaining that it could never work due to such difficult obstacles in its way.

“In the United States, any attempt to find an adequate Keynesian solution has been doomed at the start by a number of economic and political barriers that are almost impossible to overcome. A Keynesian solution would require massive and prolonged deficit financing if it were to succeed.”

This comes down to the fact that Americans along with other “super powers” across the globe could not be sustained if we went into deficit financing.  Therefore this perspective can never happen in this country.  One of the reasons why the United States is in such a bad position is due to the amount of money that we owe other countries.

“The problem for the United States in 2008-9 is that it starts from a position of chronic indebtedness to the rest of the world (it has been borrowing at the rate of more than $2-billion a day over the last ten years or more) and this poses an economic limitation upon the size of the extra deficit that can now be incurred.”

In order for the stimulus package to work is if people know and believe what they are told, where the money is actually going and being spent on.

“In order to work, the stimulus has to be administered in such a way as to guarantee that it will be spent on goods and services and so get the economy humming again. This means that any relief must be directed to those who will spend it, which means the lower classes, since even the middle classes, if they spend it at all, are more likely to spend it on bidding up asset values (buying up foreclosed houses, for example), rather than increasing their purchases of goods and services.”

With so many financial uncertainties these days, the American people want to be comforted in knowing about where ones money is being spent, when will this end and how will we become a better nation from our financial mistakes.  Once again like an earthquake, we as a nation will come out of this and come back stronger than ever.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Sander: “Staring into Black Water”

I read a well-written article from the Radical Perspectives On The Crisis blog titled “Staring Into Black Water“. Basically it talks about how determining what will happen in the economy, even in the near future, is virtually impossible. We can see the general problems afflicting the health of the worldwide economy, but only time will tell how deep the problems are rooted. The article argues that eventually the economy will have to fix itself, or cease to exist and start from the beginning.


“But nobody knows how much fictitious capital is out there and how much of it must disappear before the rest of the economy is sufficiently unburdened to catch its breath.”


The article starts off by pointing out one of the central problems of the economy: fictitious capital. This emphasizes the overarching point that knowing how deep the problem goes and in which direction it will go in is impossible, because we don’t know how much fictitious capital is out there. Fictitious capital will have to decrease by the forces of deflation, but that as time goes by the problem grows exponentially worse.


“One option for the ruling class is to do more or less nothing. Let the avalanche rush on until it has hit the bottom. After all a crisis is a moment of correction and, if the correction is not allowed to proceed, the underlying problem will not go away.”


It goes on to say that the most obvious thing we can do is let the “avalanche” of the worsening economy play itself out. While this might be the most obvious choice, it will not be the choice willingly chosen by the ruling class because of the social implications, such as uprisings by the middle and lower classes.


“The limited reach of monetary tools is already painfully clear. Even a zero interest rate is not low enough to get credit flowing again if there is no confidence in tomorrow.”


The article also points out how relatively ineffective our “monetary tools” are when it comes to solving such a global problem. Lowering the interest rates is supposed to be one way the government can intervene, but it does not solve the underlying problems that plague the system as a whole.


“It may be that the loss of purchasing power as a result of the deflation of real estate and other assets is just too great to be compensated for, and that the deflationary wave, after slowing for a while, will accelerate again. Keeping alive weak companies will only postpone their demise and in the meantime lower the profit rate of their stronger competitors”


The article goes on to criticize how “bailing out” companies is only worsening the problem. it may temporarily alleviate some of the symptoms of the worsening economy, but in the long run will actually make things worse.


“So the great stimulus plans may all be in vain, but there is no other option … The crisis of confidence will move from confidence in the banks to confidence in the state. The crisis of confidence will move from confidence in the banks to confidence in the state. “


In the end, I think although people feel that the “laissez faire” approach to solving the world’s economic woes is a poor way to deal with the current crisis, that is what might ultimately happen. Because of globalization, there is not much any single entity can do to sway the global economy in any particular direction. Governments may try to help alleviate the social impacts of a poor economy to make sure that there are still people around to participate in an economy, but the markets will either have to fix themselves or – in the worst case scenario – cease to exist and would have to “start from scratch.” At best, what we can do is try to alleviate the social implications on the crisis, but at some point (and some may argue we may have already reached that point) the only way to restore people’s confidence may be to radicially change or replace the capitalist system altogether.

-Adrian Manea

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Sander: “Staring into Black Water”

Paul Krugman: A Continent Adrift

This article is from the website . I was particular interested in the differences in the Fiscal and Monetary policies in America compared to that of Europe. The article also provided me with some insight on the effects of government intervention in the economy.

This article examines the effects of the financial crisis in Europe and how government officials are handling it. Krugman states in his opening paragraph that

I’m concerned about Europe. Actually, I’m concerned about the whole world… But the situation in Europe worries me even more than the situation in America. “

The major reason why the situation in Europe is worse than in America is because “Europe has fallen short in terms of both fiscal and monetary policy”

That is the government is not intervening in the Economy effectively. An efficient fiscal plan has not been implemented to stimulate the economy in Europe, nothing of any magnitude as that of president Obama. Krugman elaborates that

“The difference in monetary policy is equally striking. The European Central Bank has been far less proactive than the Federal Reserve; it has been slow to cut interest rates…, and it has shied away from any strong measures to unfreeze credit markets. Europe’s economic and monetary integration has run too far ahead of its political institutions……This is a major reason for the lack of fiscal action: there’s no government in a position to take responsibility for the European economy as a whole. What Europe has, instead, are national governments, each of which is reluctant to … finance a stimulus that will convey many if not most of its benefits to voters in other countries. The difference in monetary policy is equally striking. The European Central Bank has been far less proactive than the Federal Reserve; it has been slow to cut interest rates…, and it has shied away from any strong measures to unfreeze credit markets. After all, while there isn’t a European government, there is a European Central Bank. But the E.C.B. isn’t like the Fed, which can afford to be adventurous because it’s backed by a unitary national government — a government that has already moved to share the risks of the Fed’s boldness.”

Currently it seems like the creation of the Euro may be a problem because it is hard for all the governments of the 16 European nations to come to a general consensus on how the handle their fiscal and monetary policies. As Krugman states “Europe is turning out to be structurally weak in a time of crisis.”

This situation may prove that it is beneficial for the government to intervene in the economy especially in time of crisis. Since, fiscal and monetary policies are essential for the stabilization of the economy. I know that a lot of people may not agree but it is good when the government intervene in the economy especially in the banking industry. We can be contented that if the banks fail up to $200 000 is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance (FDIC) and most of us do not even have that much money in the bank anyway. In light of the current financial crisis the American government has also implemented several policies to lessen the financial burden of the American society. New home owners can borrow a $7000 interest free loan from the government. President Obama has implemented a stimulus package that will give people a huge tax break. I also do not think that anyone was unhappy with President Bush when they received their stimulus package checks last year.

 I am not pro Socialism but I do not believe that the economy will fix itself. I strongly believe that tgovernment intervention is necessary especially in times of crisis. If you are still skeptical just examine how the financial crisis is affecting Europe. They are debt-ridden, Hungary has $100 billion of external debt, Ukraine is desperate, barely able to pay its gas bill to Russia and Latvia has witnessed riots. The European nation is experiencing a severe financial collapse.

Posted in Uncategorized | 54 Comments

Who is really responsible for consumer debt?

I read an article from called “Banks Supposedly Will Cut Consumer Credit Card Lines by $931Billion if Reforms Mandated”. I thought this would be a good article to read because in our discussions in class we talked about consumerism and this relates because consumer debt is the reason why credit companies are decreasing people’s credit lines is because they don’t trust cardholders. However, the credit companies are the ones responsible for the problems that stem from debt and the capitalist society in general because they urge people to spend money they don’t have and borrow money from lenders. This article is about a fairly well to do American express customer who was very angry that his credit line went from . How can a credit card issuer give a person a license to be in debt and then punish them when most cannot pay the amounts back. They offered too much credit to begin with. In this quote from the article he is criticising the banks.

“The authorities have made it clear that they intend to throw their weight behind making credit cheaper to consumer via lowering funding costs. How big an offset is that to the $10 billion loss in fees and default charge that the industry is crying about? I suspect the value of the subsidy is considerably greater than what the government wants to take back via tougher regulations.”

In this statement he is referring to the fact that credit card companies are complaining that they will lose 931 billion dollars when the new government regulations are in place that will force them to stop practices like universal default which means that your interest rates go up for one card if you are delinquent with another credit lender and when customers are late with a payment it must be late by 30 days in order to raise interest rates.  So his point is that the card companies shouldn’t be complaining because they are more than making up for it with dramatically reducing peoples credit lines and making it more difficult for people to get credit. In the article he mentioned that 2 of his Amex cards were cut from 50,000 dollars to 3,200!! That is a dramatic decrease and he always paid on time.

He also asserts that the information that was presented in an article in the Financial Times is misleading. The article was called “Credit card reforms to cost banks billions”. He calls it misleading because the source of the information was Morrison and Forrester a law firm.  He said that the number 931 billion was too precise and that they could have chose a financial consulting firm that knows more about the banks.

I think that it is appalling that credit card companies create consumer debt by encouraging people to use their credit cards for everything. Then they turn around and distrust them by reducing credit lines.  Using American Express as an example, they always have ads with celebrities saying that they use Amex for everything. They are aware that we live in a celebrity obsessed culture and they know that normal people want to live like celebrities. So basically they are encouraging people to use up credit. This is what got the banks in a big mess to begin with, offering too much credit to people who couldn’t afford it. Then when the government puts regulations on it they complain. I definitely wouldnt trust the Financial Times for information on whats really going on with the banks because I think its more likely to be skewed in favor of the banks.

This relates to class discussion on consumerism because it is the root of Americas financial woes. We live in a culture that we want more than what we have. We don’t feel a sense of abundance in life so we borrow money in order to travel, and have other luxuries we otherwise couldn’t afford. However how can credit companies expect people to have discipline in a consumer driven society. The answer is they don’t expect it, and thats how they make their money. They are counting on people to screw up so they can make more off of sky high interest rates.

I found a commercial on youtube where Beyonce is shown living her celebrity lifestyle being catered to. In the end of the commercial she says that she uses American Express to shop online because shes so busy. In the end the commercial asks “Are you a card member?” This is proof that the credit card companies are encouraging customers to spend what they do not have. I have yet to see a credit card commercial encouraging people to pay bills on time to avoid interest and using discipline.Here is a link to the commercial so you all can watch:

Amex Commercial

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Who is really responsible for consumer debt?