Archive for July, 2011

“Let Her Be An Everlasting Light”

July 18, 2011

I was first introduced to Elizabeth Warren in Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

At the time, Ms. Warren was chair of a Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the U.S. banking bailout involving hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars. When Michael asked her in the film “where the money went”, she candidly replied with genuine frustration and refreshing candor, “I don’t know” — a question which remains largely unanswered to this day.

A seemingly perfect choice to develop and oversee a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren was named a a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on September 17, 2010, since then earning the nickname “Sheriff of Wall Street” and ruffling more than a few feathers outside and inside the Obama Administration.

On Thursday, July 14th, while testifying before a congressional panel, Warren questioned the scope of state and federal investigations into alleged mortgage abuses and “illegal” foreclosures perpetrated by the nation’s largest mortgage companies, marking the first time a senior White House official publicly broke ranks with the President over the issue and raising fresh questions about the wisdom of the government’s rush to settle with the firms.

She testified that government agencies may not have sufficiently investigated claims that borrowers’ homes were illegally seized by banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial.

Four days later, on Monday, July 18th, President Obama announced Warren was being passed over as his choice to become permanent Director of the very organization she had conceived and created, instead choosing to nominate Warren’s second-in-command, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, thus caving in to those who view Elizabeth Warren as being far, far too serious in her quest for meaningful banking regulations and reform.

While this decision may well open the door for Ms. Warren to run for the Senate next year in Massachusetts against Scott Brown, surprise inheritor of Ted Kennedy’s old seat, Obama’s latest reluctance to confront the GOP head on in this instance again seems to signal Presidential timidity at best and incomprehensible capitulation at worst.

In Elizabeth Warren’s case, I find myself equally troubled by the President’s choice of such Wall Street tainted advisors as Geithner, Larry Summers, Bill Daily and others, who may well have felt themselves under Warren’s scrutiny to an uncomfortable degree in her attempts to shed serious light on shifty shenanigans.

But I am most heartened by Ms. Warren’s words to the Huffington Post
in graciously commenting on Cordray’s appointment:

“I’m not taking my eye off those who want to cripple this agency. We got this agency by fighting, we stood it up by fighting, and, if takes more fighting to keep it strong and independent, then we can do it.”

Perhaps the day may come when a Senator Warren might become a President Warren. She already has her gloves on.

Everlasts! They don’t come in lace!

“No Breaks For Barack”

July 8, 2011

If we should ever separate, my little plum, I want to give you just one bit of fatherly advice: Never give a sucker an even break!”

W. C. Fields — “Poppy”— 1936

You have to hand it to the G.O.P.

They knew a sucker when they saw one.

There they were the morning of November 5, 2008, facing a newly elected Democratic President, Democrats outnumbering Republicans in the House (257 to 178) and Senate (58 to 41) with political pundits pronouncing their party more endangered than Delta smelt.

But since assuming office on January 20, 2009, President Barack Obama has folded like a lawn chair — a paper hat — a cheap suit — metaphors abound — and he’s done it time and time again. Elected through his soaring campaign rhetoric of, “Yes, we can!”, it now seems clear that he can’t — or –worse—-he won’t.

Barack Obama wasted his first two years of Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress to such a disenchanting extent that more than half the youth vote which elected him stayed home last November, resulting in an historic electoral swing to the right.

If the legendary “Urban Cowboy” was — “Big Hat — No Horse!” — Our President has defined himself as — “Big Talk — No Walk!”

We remain the only nation in the entire industrialized world without some form of universal health care for its citizens. Obama caved early on this one, even refusing to put a “single- payer” proposal on the table at the outset of negotiations. A single-payer system of health care would largely cut insurers out of the process, permitting government to be the sole payer of health care claims by consumers and providers and eliminating a profit motive, saving billions in the process.

We now witness the most uneven distribution of wealth between rich and poor in our history on the planet, virtually the worst inequity anywhere among free governments. Obama tossed away elimination of tax breaks for the rich and private corporations at the end of last year for little in return except an extension of emergency assistance to the unemployed, haughtily defined by Republicans at the time as a thoroughly questionable expenditure. He traded a cake for a cookie.

As unionism in general and collective bargaining in particular have come under bitter attack by State governments in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere, our President has remained disturbingly disengaged.

An insatiable American War Machine — that “Military – Industrial Complex” President Eisenhower warned us about in 1961– IS NOW ADDING FOURTEEN BILLION DOLLARS A WEEK TO OUR NATIONAL DEBT. President Obama has limited military withdrawal from Afghanistan to a minimal level against former promises and now entertains the notion of leaving significant troops in Iraq past a deadline pledged by his predecessor, George the Conqueror. Then there’s Libya.

Alan Cheah, my “For Your Consideration” colleague, bets “that 99% of Tea Party members do not belong to the social circles being protected by (Eric) Cantor and (Jon) Kyl”. Both of these dangerous dudes have been dangling all of us over a potentially deadly economic abyss to avoid any tax increases on the truly well-off.

For that matter, I have never heard any Tea Party patriot defending those obscene banking practices which threw us into a deep recession in September of 2008 or the “banksters” who profited before, during and after everything collapsed around us. 2011 will be their best year yet. This debacle remains functionally unaddressed by President Obama and a bought and paid for Congress. There have been no meaningful changes in Federal Law since the bottom dropped out, even as hundreds of corporate criminals are heavily rewarded, yet are still uncharged – let alone unpunished.

Ironically, with their deep embracement of the U.S. Constitution, Tea Party folks may even come to our rescue in early August by observing that the 14th Amendment clearly states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” There is no need for a “debt ceiling” referenced anywhere in the document, especially regarding interest payments on current obligations already “authorized by law”.

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from less than 9 percent in 1976. From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

For any practical purpose, that top 1% of our population now own and operate the United States of America. If you’re in the bottom 99%? They believe they run YOU. And they’re certainly exercising a frightening degree of demonstrable control over our Chief Executive, whose earnest inclination to conciliate at any cost against the interests of the American middle class is leading us to Seriously Unfair, Commons Killing, Economic Ruin.

And that spells S -U- C -K- E -R.