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Totally Inappropriate Open Thread

For Chuckles – (oYo)

What’s on your mind??

President Re-Election Does the Vision Thing: A Play in One Utopian Act.

No, You Cannot. Have a Nice Day!

No, You Cannot. Have a Nice Day!

THE SCENE: A five-star hotel suite somewhere in America. (What – you thought he’d actually be at home, doing his job?) PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA and FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA are sitting at a linen-covered table set with heavy silverware and a pink rosebud in a crystal jar, sipping coffee and discussing the challenges and benefits of Presidenting. A four-poster bed can be seen slightly behind and to the left of where the Obamas are sitting.

MICHELLE: Well, I think things are going great, Barack. You haven’t had a Cabinet appointment scandal in a couple of days, and everyone seems to be getting used to the whole idea of spending hundreds of billions to fix Bush’s mess. Plus, your speeches are still killing!

OBAMA: Yeah, and I have all this cool stuff that shows I’m the President! Air Force One. A nifty jacket. The White House. Man, this job rules! But there’s one thing that’s getting me down.

MICHELLE: Listen, Barack, if it’s that whole smoking in the house thing again, I TOLD you –

OBAMA: Nah, nah, it’s not about that. This is something even MORE serious. (standing up and pacing) People are accusing me of thinking small on health care just because my entire plan consists of computerizing medical records! I mean, what do they want, single-payer health care or something? I never, EVER said I was going to do anything like that!

MICHELLE (watching him, sighing sympathetically): Yeah, honey, I know. Where do they get these stupid ideas about you?

OBAMA (lying on the bed, hands behind his head): I honestly don’t know. Maybe Axelrod told some of his operatives to spread that nonsense – I just gave up on keeping track of all the things he was promising my fans in the blogosphere. (pats the space next to him on the bed to indicate MICHELLE should come lie down beside him)

MICHELLE (crossing to the bed and lying down): So, is that it? You’re catching flack from a bunch of keyboard commandos over health care? Sounds pretty small-time to me. (suddenly worried) Unless – the health insurance companies aren’t threatening to withhold funding for 2012, are they?

OBAMA (laughing): Of course not! No worries there. They couldn’t be happier that I won. (sobering up) No, the real problem is that I’m being accused of not having a vision for this country. Can you believe that? Don’t they know that this medical records idea is just a small step along the way to a better, brighter, more efficient O-merica? Here, let me show you my vision…

Continue reading

Friday: Ok, forget it. Just bleed us dry.

Were only taking 2 quarts.  You wont even miss it.

We're only taking 2 quarts. You won't even miss it.

We are finally finding out why the banks are sitting on all of the money we gave them last fall.  It turns out that after they sucked the bonuses out of them, it simply wasn’t enough cash for lending.  They are still undercapitalized.  What we *didn’t* know is that banks were getting much of their money from hedge funds and now those hedge funds are hurting. Now, they need an extra trillion to start lending again.

The Obama administration hopes to jump-start this crucial machinery by effectively subsidizing the profits of big private investment firms in the bond markets. The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve plan to spend as much as $1 trillion to provide low-cost loans and guarantees to hedge funds and private equity firms that buy securities backed by consumer and business loans.

The Fed is expected to start the first phase of the program, which will provide $200 billion in loans to investors, in early March.

But analysts question whether this approach will be enough to unlock the credit that the economy needs to pull out of a deepening recession. Some worry it may benefit only select investors at taxpayer expense.

The program also does not try to change securitization practices that, many investors say, spread risks throughout the world and destroyed financial institutions. Policy makers acknowledge that for now, fixing credit ratings, reducing conflicts of interest and improving disclosure can wait.

Under the program, the Fed will lend to investors who acquire new securities backed by auto loans, credit card balances, student loans and small-business loans at rates ranging from roughly 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

Who could have predicted?  Aren’t hedge funds set up to play on the uncertainties of the market?  Aren’t there complicated sensitivity analysis algorithms written by boy genius biologist billionaires that have this stuff all worked out?  I guess they didn’t count on ultra aggressive MBA’s from Harvard biz school inventing collateralized debt obligations and other fancy “instruments”.  I swear, these people need to be flayed, all of them.

So, we bailed out the bankers and the insurance companies.  Why not the hedge funds?  I mean, if rich people want to gamble their money away, is it moral for us to let them do it?  And is the hedge fund problem the real reason we have been dithering on the second bank bailout?  No one knew quite how to break it to us.  It’s another *trillion* dollars.  It’s just so enormously large.   I can almost hear Geithner and Obama talking about it:

“Wow!  Oh, wow!  That’s a $%@!load of money, Tim.  I don’t envy you when you have to break it to the American people.”

“Me?  *I’m* not going to tell them.  YOU tell them.”

Oh, and did you notice?  The Obama administration is not going to require any changes to the securitization schemes that got us into this mess in the first place.  We just give them the money so they can start playing again and the fixes can wait.  What is it my organic chem professor used to say all of the time? Oh yeah:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over??”

We’re running out of time.  We are becoming Japan, not Sweden.

In other news:

  • UBS, one of Switzerland’s largest and most secretive banks, is going to be coughing up the names of some of its account holders.  It reached a settlement agreement with the US Government over a severe case of tax fraud.  Yep, UBS found some wealthy American clients and helped them hide their assets from the IRS to the tune of ~$300 million.  The bank made about that much in profit.  The bank’s executives were on the verge of indictment, which would have been the kiss of death in years past.  So, they agreed to pay back the taxes and the profits *and* disclose the names of the tax cheats.  That got the bank off the hook for about $1 Billion in penalties.  My, my, I can’t wait to go through those names.  How much you want to bet we recognize some of those names?  Gee, I wonder how many donated to Obama’s campaign?  Unfortunately, when it comes to disclosing the names of the account holders, the bankers are screwed either way.  The US will indict if they don’t cough up the names and the Swiss government will indict if they do.  What’s a banker to do?
  • Nouriel Roubini wrote an ode to the end of Laissez Faire capitalism yesterday.  Of course, we know it’s not dead, nor is capilatism dead.  But it deserves a long convalsescence while the rest of us clean up the mess.  Republicans, libertarians and their enabler Blue Dogs need to keep their yaps shut if they know what’s good for them.  Personally, I don’t want to hear about how the rich will suffer if they don’t have money to play with, like the rest of us can’t figure out how to play with money more responsibly.  It just hit me yesterday that I completely bought into that line of argument that if we didn’t let the rich have their money free from a lot of burdensome taxation, they would be unable to create jobs.  But throughout my working career, we’ve given the rich tax cut after tax cut and the only jobs that have been created are overseas while the money has been moved into offshore tax shelters (see UBS above).  What have we gotten from the rich for all that we’ve given them except attacks on labor unions, layoff notices that boosted their quarterly earnings and waiting on pins and needles for the pink slip?  It has been 25 years of constant anxiety for me during my career.  Can I afford to take a vacation, finish my basement, save for college or my retirement?  How much of my money needs to be liquid in case I lose my job?  Which relative do I move in with?  What am I going to do instead of research?  Is this any way to live?   It’s a modest existence.  There are no new cars every year.  I shop at The Gap and Banana Republic, not Saks or even Talbots.  I look for bargains for everything.   I don’t live on credit.  But even doing as much as I can responsibly, I can be taken down by a bunch of whiny rich guys who have bogarted the media megaphone for the past thirty years.

I’m sorry, but the rich have exhausted my sympathy.  I simply do not care if they had contractural agreements guaranteeing them massive bonuses based on overall revenue and not profit.  If they threaten to quit because they aren’t getting their million dollar lagniape, I have only one thing to say to them.  It was said to us sciency types one year by our CEO  in a company I used to work for.  The CEO announced hiring and salary freezes after years of dismal raises.   It was during that brief recession just after Clinton took office and changing jobs was not an option.   “Where else are you going to go?”, he said.  Yes, dear bankers, where else are you going to go?  Oh and by the way, your jobs can be outsourced too.  I hear they’re ramping up the finance industry- in Asia.