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    • What Protests in Lebanon, France, Chile and Ecuador Have In Common
      There’s some important events happening today: another Brexit vote, and the Canadian federal election (whose results are not obvious), but we won’t know how either of those end till later, so let’s discuss some popular protests of massive size. In France the protests were sparked by an increase in diesel taxes. The demands included an […]
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Tim Geithner Could Get Some Assistance at Treasury Soon

This is so exciting! Tim Geithner may get some help at the Treasury Department soon. President Obama has just announced three new Treasury appointments. From Reuters a short time ago:

President Barack Obama moved to fill three of the four most senior Treasury Department positions on Monday, including announcing his intent to nominate former department counsel Neal Wolin as deputy Treasury secretary.

Obama also named Lael Brainard, a Brookings economist, as undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs and said he had decided to keep Stuart Levey as undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Wolin and Brainard must be confirmed by the Senate. Levey was confirmed in his post in 2004 and is being asked to remain so does not require reconfirmation.

No word yet on whether they’ve found anyone to answer the telephones yet.

Let’s hope Wolin, Brainard, and Levey’s taxes are all paid up. Timmy really needs some help!

Another piece of news that might not be so good for Timmy and Barack:

There have been rumors and announcements from China about a new reserve currency.

And the IMF has said that it is considering printing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of its own currency.

Today, the two stories came together in a dramatic development. Specifically, the head of China’s central bank proposed making the IMF’s currency the world’s reserve currency, to replace the dollar.

Yikes!

This is an open thread.

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Obama’s 60 Minutes Interview and that Odd, Inappropriate Laughter

This morning I watched the 60 Minutes interview with President Obama that aired last night. You can read the transcript here. Part of the interview took place at the White House, with Obama discussing his schedule and how his daughters are adjusting to their new surroundings. The other part was a sit-down interview in which Steve Kroft asked Obama some questions about the economic crisis. I’m posting the first part of the interview below, along with some segments from the transcript that I’d like to discuss.

Just a personal note–I think Steve Kroft comes across as quite biased toward the Wall Street point of view throughout the interview. He expresses compassion for the unfortunate people working for the banks and thinks it’s terribly unfair to ask them to work for *only* $250,000 per year.

STEVE KROFT:
Your Treasury Secretary’s plan… Geithner’s plan, and— your plan really— for solving the banking crisis— was met with very, very, very tepid response. And you had a lot of people criticize… a lot of people said they didn’t understand it. A lot of people said it didn’t have any— enough details to— to— to solve the problem. I know you’re coming out with something— next week on this. But these criticisms were coming from people like Warren Buffett, people who had supported you, and you had counted as being your—

PRESIDENT OBAMA:
And— and— and— and Warren still does support me. But I think that understand Warren’s also a big player in the financial markets who’s a major owner of Wells Fargo. And so he’s got a perspective from the perspective of somebody who— is part owner of a bank. You’ve got members of Congress who’ve got a different perspective. Which is, “We don’t want to spend any more taxpayer money.” You’ve got— a whole host of players, all of whom may have a completely different solution. (LAUGHS) Right?

And— you know, one of the challenges that Tim Geithner— has had— is the same challenge that anybody would have in this situation.

people want a lot of contradictory things. You know, the— the— the banks would love a lot of taxpayer money with no strings attached. Folks in Congress, as well as the American people, would love to fix the banks without spending any money. (LAUGHS) And so at a certain point, you know, you’ve got just a— a very difficult line— to— to walk.

It seems to me that Obama perceives himself as someone who is trying to meet the conflicting demands of many different people; and that is certainly something that is going to happen to the President of the United States. What is missing for me is any sense that Obama sees himself as an advocate for a particular point of view. This is the thing that has bothered me about Obama from the very beginning. I just don’t get a sense of there being a real flesh-and-blood person in there beneath the polished exterior. I don’t get the feeling that he really cares about anyone or anything–except himself, of course. Continue reading

Monday: Why doctors of thinkology don’t get it.

Paul Krugman is in despair. He simply cannot understand why Obama and his economics team are taking the country off a cliff in order to protect bankers and investors from absorbing their losses.  It’s a puzzlement why taxpayers are subsidizing the private investors who will gladly take bad assets off of the bankers hands for more money than they are actually worth.

Paul, Paul, Paul, where have you been?  This $@#%’s been going on for a couple of decades now.  If we weren’t in danger of being called “crude populists”  some of us would complain loudly and vociferously about a class war.

Remember Pittsburgh in the late 70’s?  Of course you do.  Back then, the Japanese dumped steel on the US market and drove prices down.  The US steel manufacturer’s used that as an opportunity to get rid of the pesky unions and diversify.  I used to wake up in the middle of the night to a bright orange sandblasted sky and the comforting sounds of clanging steel.  My uncles worked for US Steel and made pretty good money.  Then, they were suddenly out on their own.  The mills went silent.  The milltowns fell into disrepair.  Giardia crept into the water systems that municipal authorities couldn’t afford to fix.

Then there came PATCO.  Ah, yes, I remember it well.  It happened just before my first trip to the Bahamas.  Lucky for us there were just enough management to take over running the airports to get us safely off the ground and back again.  But it was OK.  We hired new air traffic controllers who were willing to work for less money and wouldn’t complain so much.  Probably laid off steelworkers.

The 80’s were full of stories about lockouts and Caterpillar workers on strikes and people living off of their union dues and sadness and heartbreak in reazlizing the only job they knew was gone, gone, gone.  These were not high-falutin’ doctors of thinkology.  They were just your average Joe’s who enjoyed a beer on their front stoops after work and spent the weekends tending to their gardens and their cars.  The people you want to spend Thanksgiving dinner with, eating pumpkin pie in front of a football game.  Little people who liked watching the sunset over the river on a summer evening and telling stories to their neighbors.

I was in college in the 80’s.  I saw the rise of the MBA lifestyle, the business majors, the resurrection of Greek culture, the beginnings of networking.  We G-d damned independents thought we were so much smarter than them, hunkered over our P-chem textbooks and sodium sand organometallic reactions.  There would always be a job out there for those of us who used our brains.  Money?  Well, yeah, we expected to be paid well.  Maybe not stellar salaries but enough to enjoy the American Dream.  Greed wasn’t what we were after.  And there weren’t that many of us anyway.  My college graduated exactly 8 Chemistry majors in 1986.  Besides, wasn’t a college degree the path to success?  That’s what everyone told us.

But we were wrong.  It’s the people who handle the money who have a path to success.  While we were busy thinking, they were busy rewriting the rules.  And we were so busy.  Those of us who are female had careers and husbands who didn’t help out as much as they should have and children and daycare and forty things to do before we fell into bed at night.  The pace of life picked up and went at lightspeed.  Who has time to manage the money?  We trusted people to do that for us.  Even when we got our first 401k’s, most of us were content to just “set it and forget it”.

And the college educated toiled away while the MBAs and the marketers and sales people flourished and gave themselves bonuses and promoted themselves over and over again.  And the investors bought stock and frowned when the quarterly earnings didn’t endlessly increase their dividends.  And they demanded cutbacks and the MBA’s obliged and reduced the number of people who actually did the work.  And the remaining workers cheered because their portfolios grew.

And here we are.  The college educated are now the new working class.  We are expendable.  I heard an HR person at my company slip recently and tell a bunch of high school students that a starting BS scientist could expect to make $35K at my company but people who came in with marketing degrees made the top salaries.  Well, we’ve suspected this for a while now.  They also get the attention of the CEO’s.  If a marketer can’t figure out a way to protect his own job, he should find a new career.  And the MBAs sit in their offices and move the chess pieces around and try to figure out which production units to cut in order to increase their bottom line. We are all expendable.

So, now Tim Geithner and Barack Obama are working on a plan to stick hard working, soon to be out of work taxpayers with the bill for the investors who are going to take on the massive bad assets that the bankers cooked up to make money for themselves.  We should not expect these bankers and shareholders to take a haircut because that would be “crude populism” and class warfare.  Why is it any surprise to you that Obama would go this route, Paul?  As long as those of you in the media say it’s OK to treat us like the wretched refuse of our teaming shores, why shouldn’t Tim, Larry and Barry do whatever the hell they want with our money?

In order to get the economy back on track, we workers have to reclaim our dignity and demand accountability.  So, Paul, if you can’t say anything nice about us “crude populists” out here, please, say nothing at all.