July 29, 2010
Numerous current stories show how disconnected mainstream policy-makers are from reality.
For example, Ryan Grim points out that there is an “unbelievable disconnect” between the American people (who are people are against the Afghanistan war) and Congress and the political elite (gung-ho to escalate this never-ending war):
Even after the Wikileaks revelations, even though there is no logical reason to be in Afghanistan, even though the war won’t help the economy, and even though most Americans want us to get out, Congress keeps increasing funding for the endless war.
And Alan Blinder (economist, banking consultant and former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System) and chief Moody’s economist Mark Zandi wrote a paper yesterday called How We Ended the Great Recession:
How We Ended the Great Recession
A source on Capitol Hill sent this to me, telling me that the paper is making the rounds on the Hill.
In the paper, Blinder and Zandi congratulate the Bush and Obama administrations for saving us from the Great Depression 2.0:
Eighteen months ago, the global financial system was on the brink of collapse and the U.S. was suffering its worst economic downturn since the 1930s. The Great Recession gave way to recovery as quickly as it did largely because of the unprecedented responses by monetary and fiscal policymakers.
In other words: “Mission Accomplished”.
In the real world, however, the economy is on the second leg down of the crash, and the government’s policies have not addressed the real problems. See this and this (no wonder consumer confidence is plunging but Wall Street is partying like it’s 1999).
Indeed, while Blinder and Zandi and Congress are patting themselves on the back for a job well done, the facts simply do not bear out their claims. As just one example, they claim that the TARP bank bailouts helped the economy. But as I pointed out in March 2009, the bailout money didn’t actually go to any productive economic uses:
The bailout money is just going to line the pockets of the wealthy, instead of helping to stabilize the economy or even the companies receiving the bailouts:
- Bailout money is being used to subsidize companies run by horrible business men, allowing the bankers to receive fat bonuses, to redecorate their offices, and to buy gold toilets and prostitutes
- A lot of the bailout money is going to the failing companies’ shareholders
- Indeed, a leading progressive economist says that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”
- The Treasury Department encouraged banks to use the bailout money to buy their competitors, and pushed through an amendment to the tax laws which rewards mergers in the banking industry (this has caused a lot of companies to bite off more than they can chew, destabilizing the acquiring companies)
And as the New York Times notes, “Tens of billions of [bailout] dollars have merely passed through A.I.G. to its derivatives trading partners”.
In other words, through a little game-playing by the Fed, taxpayer money is going straight into the pockets of investors in AIG’s credit default swaps and is not even really stabilizing AIG.
The super-wealthy have been bailed out, and life is great for them. For everyone else, things are not so good.
And – because Congress members tend to be wealthy, and because they can engage in insider trading without having to worry about pesky things like the law – they continue (with only a handful of exceptions who challenge status quo thinking regarding finance and war) to make decisions which benefit their own bank accounts, instead of working for the American people.
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