* On Sunday morning two AP headlines caught my attention – “It’s Race Against Time To Save Ike Stalwarts” and “Feds, Wall Street Race to Save Lehman.” The first headline refers to the humanitarian efforts to save human beings in the aftermath of a natural disaster – hurricane Ike, that devastated large parts of Texas. The second headline refers to a man-made disaster - the potential bailout of another financial institution that has been managed by seedy and greedy millionaires. They were enabled by an incompetent federal government and an impotent congress blinded by the campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts funded by these same financial mega corporations now facing bankruptcy.
A competent parent knows that a teenager needs guidance and oversight – the same constrictions needed by commercial institutions that are myopically consumed by profits. This greed on steroids is devoid of ethics, integrity and the concept of the common good. We are now told that it is in our interest to use billions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep private companies like Bear Stearns and Lehman and quasi governmental companies like Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac from being flushed into oblivion. These same companies who fought every suggestion at oversight and regulation, whose policies consciously screwed over so many Americans, are now asking the American taxpayer for handouts. Neither the executive branch nor congressional branch of the government exercised their fiduciary responsibility to the American people.
Monday morning headlines: BLACK MONDAY; World Stocks Sink; U.S. Stocks Set to Sink at Open; Merrill Sells Itself to Bank of America; Lehman Files for Bankruptcy; FED Takes Emergency Steps; Insurance Giant AIG Scrambles for Cash; Banks Roll Out $70 Billion Loan Program. I am waiting for the next Republican politician to extol free enterprise free of regulation. I am waiting for the next Democratic politician to exhibit a patriotic spine and tell the American people that they will fight for legislation to achieve two goals: real ethics reform that actually minimizes the influence of lobbyists; public financing of elections so that the legislators are not in the pockets of special interest groups and so that legislators are not spending so much of their time trolling for campaign contributions from banks, insurance companies, oil and gas companies, insurers and pharmaceutical companies. Any congressman that does not support such measures should be thrown the hell out of office.
Monday afternoon – McCain tells a rally in Florida, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." If this is a result of McCain listening to his economic advisors they are bigger derriere orifices than Bush’s financial team.
* Why Black Monday occurred:
1.) Incomes shrank for most Americans over the last expansion.
2.) But Americans kept spending thanks to a mammoth increase in household debt.
3.) To increase the amount of debt in the system, lending standards were lowered.
4.) Lowered lending standards have led to a higher default rate from borrowers.
5.) Higher default rates have lowered the value of all the collateral backed by mortgages.
6.) Lowered collateral values have killed the balance sheets of literally every major financial company.
So wrote Hale Stewart at the Huffington Post. He provides details about each of the above points in an interesting and informative article. Stewart’s piece and other writings this week would lead one to conclude that a Republican president, a Republican congress and an Alan Greenspan-led Federal Reserve became too cozy with America’s major financial institutions and that created a perfect storm for financial disaster. Their arrogance and greed led them to believe our current crisis could not happen. I suggest a read of this article to determine if there is merit to John McCain’s claim that the fundamentals of our economy are strong.
* Six alarm fire – On Tuesday John McCain called “for a high-level commission to study the current economic crisis and claimed that a corrupt and excessive Wall Street had betrayed American workers.” A commission may have some merit even if we know what happened. What was missing in McCain’s exhortation was mention of the commission by him and his Republican Party being a party to this debacle. It is reminiscent of the pyromaniac that sets a blaze and then calls for the Fire Department. Perhaps the American voter will begin to understand that a McCain presidency is akin to appointing the arsonist the Fire Chief.
* The pieces of the puzzle continue to come together – From the Progress Report: McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (on September 9) that called lobbyists "primary contributors" to the crisis. One of these lobbyists though, is McCain's own campaign manager, Rick Davis, who "served as president of an advocacy group led by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that defended the two companies against increased regulation." Davis challenged even the smallest reform measures intended to make sure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were being held more accountable for their actions. This helped the mortgage giants, "consistently [beat] back congressional efforts to increase oversight, even after a major accounting scandal in 2003 resulted in a $400 million fine for Fannie.
In an effort to provide full disclosure it should be noted that Rick Davis is only one of 120 lobbyists working for the McCain campaign. That McCain is one heck of a lobbyist basher!
Also earning special mention is the economic advisor to McCain, former Senator Phil Graham. While a senator and then as a lobbyist Graham opposed any legislation that would have regulated financial institutions – regulations that may have averted the financial crisis gripping America and the international community. I wrote about Mr. Graham in July of this year. His hands are as dirty as his pockets are full.
The Republican Party and the lobbyists took their relationship to a new level at the beginning of the Bush administration. It was spirited by then Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) who led the K Street project - a marriage od Republican politicians and lobbyists that threw open the doors of congressional access to the likes of Jack Abramoff, former ultra lobbyist and current resident of a federal prison. Santorum was rejected for re-election in 2006 but the effect of his efforts to put the federal government up for sale continues today.
* Speaking of money ill-spent – George Bush has given Pakistan billions of dollars to be our ally in the global war against terrorism. This week the Pakistani government ordered its troops to fire on the U.S. military if it conducts raids in Pakistan against terrorists and their supporters. Yes, the world is a complicated place. Let us hope that the next president has the ability to navigate such treacherous terrain. Someone who has not rubber-stamped Lost George.
* What is an over-worked secretary to do? - Speaking last week to the annual Conference of the White House Initiative on National Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admitted that there are too few African-Americans in her agency. "I can go into a whole day of meetings at the Department of State -- and actually rarely see somebody who looks like me," Rice said. "And that is just not acceptable." Since January 6, 2005 Rice has been in her current position working around the clock to cover the errors of her boss. There simply has been no time available or inclination to change the State Department from looking like the Republican National Convention.
* You would too - Thirty-two of the nation’s leading historians have sent letters to congressional leaders calling on them to strengthen the Presidential Records Act (PRA). They are concerned that as the Bush administration prepares to leave office they are ready to expunge the record on its tenure. Expunging the record makes perfect sense. Their “record” is one of incompetency, lies and illegal activities. One would have to be in a vegetative state to not try to hide such documentation. Destroying the records will also help keep some of them out of prison.
* Last weekend in Andover, MA legal scholars, lawyers, and activists came together for "JUSTICE ROBERT H. JACKSON CONFERENCE: PLANNING FOR THE PROSECUTION OF HIGH LEVEL AMERICAN WAR CRIMINALS. As the insulated and self-protected members of the Bush administration leave the White House in January 2009 I am surer that they will be looking over their shoulders than they were “certain” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Thousands of Americans were culpable in the use of torture, breaking the law and the ever-present “cover up.” Unlike a tragic Italian opera this will not be over when the fat lady sings the aria Arevaderchi.
* Get your free score card - If you are having difficulty keeping up with the McCain lies a new website sponsored by the Democratic Party will help you. The name of the site is Count the Lies - McCainPedia.org. This website will need a server capable of handling substantial gigabytes of memory.
* That Grand Old Party – The Michigan Republican Party is attempting to question voters’ eligibility whose homes have been foreclosed. “According to voting rights experts a foreclosure notice does not mean that a person is no longer a resident -- making it an inadequate basis for a challenge.” I imagine that GOP strategists have strategized that more Democrats have homes that have been foreclosed than Republicans. Thirteen U.S. Senators have petitioned the Justice Department to prevent disenfranchisement of voters who have lost their homes.
* A wealth of insight – NY Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich once again offers a cogent and perceptive analysis of the presidential race. I highly recommend a read of this in-depth article for which a summarization would not do it justice. I will note his concluding recommendation to the Democratic presidential nominee: If Obama “focuses voters on the 2008 McCain, the Palin question will take care of itself.”
* "No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity."