Friday, March 25, 2011

Top 10 Keynesian Ways to Boost the US Economy (Satire)

Hurricane Katrina/Wikimedia Commons Image
Jason Kaspar
Gold Shark

Keynesian economists are propagandizing the media with a unified message; in one breath lightly touching on the human tragedy in Japan, while in the next anticipating with delight the economic recovery it will supposedly create. The natural disaster in Japan is tragic both on a human level and economically. Japan may, possibly, enjoy a GDP boost in six months or so as a result of some rebuilding, but the billions in present-day lost productivity will easily negate any future upside.

The buildings and businesses with billions in loans have, and will continue to, experience enormous losses. Who will realize these losses? Insurance losses – the capital that would be invested in other productive assets - now must cover billions in claims. And what about the economic impact resulting from the loss of nuclear efficiency? Consider the power situation in Japan over the coming months with 40% of electricity used in greater Tokyo historically originating from the Niigata and Fukushima prefectures. In totality, it is mystifying how any economist could predict a net economic positive.

But, then again, here come the Keynesians. Perhaps no statement has been more shocking than Larry Kudlow’s callous gem (he later apologized): "The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll and we can be grateful for that . . . all these markets stocks, commodities, oil, gold, there is no major breakout or breakdown. I have to view that positively." Kudlow's comment may have been a slip up, but it is one example of many.

There’s Mohammed El-Erian writing in the Financial Times:

“Attention also turns towards the extent of the damage to the economy and its reconstruction and rehabilitation plans . . . Japan’s economic growth rate will fall in the immediate aftermath of the natural disasters before rising sharply due to reconstruction activities . . . Moreover, in a really good recovery scenario, Friday’s dreadful shock could even be a catalyst for internal political unity and for overcoming what has been two disappointing decades of economic performance.”

Not to be outdone, Goldman Sachs recently issued a report touting the likelihood of a Japanese recovery.

Let’s follow the Keynesian approach. I have come up with the top ten ways we can boost the US economy using that same Keynesian rationale.

1. Air Force Bombing Practice

For an entire day the Air Force can carpet bomb our interstates and highways. Why should Libya get the economic boost? Roads will be off limits to avoid human casualties (building up productivity for the lost work, right?) and we can kickstart the construction sector still reeling from the housing and commercial real estate nightmare.

2. National Food Fight

Let’s take it back to the college caf and have a food fight. Our processed food tastes terrible anyway. Rules are: any and all food may be thrown at other Americans, but under no circumstances may food be preserved. Think of the fun. Sure, our hybrid, pinkish, crossbred, Monsantified tomatoes aren’t quite as messy as they used to be, but boy do they hurt more. Anyway, this is America. We have drugs for that.

3. Public School Fire Day

Every kid wants to burn down his school, right? (Ok, ok, besides the homeschoolers.) Well, Keynesian Public School Burning Day is their chance. It can be a teaching experience for Keynesian economics. We can invite George W. Bush, so that no child is left behind.

4. Little Rascals Day

We'll give American children a bucket of baseballs and eight hours to break as many windows as possible - a national event with no spankings, groundings, or consequences. Let them loose on cars, houses, whatever. Think of all the fun in the neighborhoods. Red houses, blue houses, yellow houses. They could start with the White House.

5. Political Car Bashing Event

We'll have all senators and state representatives bring the cars in their household to Washington, where individuals can take free swings with a baseball bat. Call’em Porsche piñatas. With 100 senators and 435 state representatives, you’d have 1600 vehicles at a minimum. Besides economic stimulus, the electorate could let off some steam. It would be better than cash for clunkers – it would be the bash for flunkers.

6. Skyscraper Demolition

We could just take down the country the old-fashioned way, with a Marlboro and thermite.

7. Cut It Up

Afraid of cutting up credit cards, we can unleash the fiscally irresponsible on the lackluster retail sector and have them cut up, chop up, and rip up poor quality Chinese-made clothing that typically bleeds after one washing anyway. (This plan would actually be a good idea if all of the clothes manufactured for American Don Juans weren’t irrevocably produced in Dongguan).

8. The E-Party

We can develop a clay pigeon iphone app and finally give the gun-totin’ Palin-lovin’ domestic militiamen something to shoot at. We can call it the E-Party against smartphones. Actually -- this may not work. Doubtful the drug companies need more stimulus.

9. Bumper Planes

This one might not work either. I was thinking we could have some destructive fun on the tarmac with Boeings and Airbusses (ya know, to help boost the economy), but getting through security screeners would be a radiation hazard, and getting a rubdown from an agent would be worse.

10. Control-Alt-Delete Day

Now here’s one that will definitely boost the economy. We can dump the computers of air-head economists into a pool of highly fluoridated toxic tap water. Biggest splash wins! Let's begin with Paul Krugman.

In all seriousness, how can any economist interpret the tsunami disaster as economically positive without logically supporting the controlled demolition of the United States? How would the results not equate? This is the irrationality of Keynesian models. Regardless of debt levels, inflation levels, natural disasters, inventory gluts, etc. the answer to economic problems always culminates in further spending.

There can be positives and negatives to spending. During the Reagan years, the economy was not over leveraged, so spending created a net positive for growth. But when the economy is over leveraged (including governments) like it is today, and like it is in Japan, both destruction and spending can be catastrophic. When inflation accelerates, further spending becomes the problem and not the solution.

Many economists would laugh off my attempt at sarcasm with the top ten listed above, but inwardly their economic theories serve to justify such irrational policies, only they couch their theories under academic names. Debt spending can work for awhile….but it cannot work forever.

Jason Kaspar is the Chief Investment Officer for Ark Fund Capital Management, focusing on investment and portfolio management.

New Civil War erupts, led by super rich, GOP

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Yes, “there’s class warfare, all right,” warns Warren Buffett. “But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Yes, the rich are making war against us. And yes, they are winning. Why? Because so many are fighting this new American Civil War between the rich and the rest.

Not just the 16 new GOP governors in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and across America fighting for new powers. Others include: Chamber of Commerce billionaires, Koch brothers, Forbes 400, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform — which now has 97% of House Republicans and 85% of the GOP Senators signed on his “no new taxes” pledge — the Tea Party and Reaganomics ideologues.

Buffett: Deals wanted

Warren Buffett said he is ready to make more acquisitions in Korea, the U.S. or the UK, and he said "the bigger the better". Shira Ovide talks with Kelsey Hubbard about Berkshire Hathaway's next move, plus Buffet's positive outlook on Japan.

Wake up America. You are under attack. Stop kidding yourself. We are at war. In fact, we have been fighting this Civil War for a generation, since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1981. Recently Buffett renewed the battle cry: The “rich class” is winning this war. Except most Americans still don’t realize they’re losing, don’t see the prize at stake.

All this was predicted back in September 2008 by Naomi Klein, author of “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” Yes, we were warned that the GOP’s Reaganomics ideology would stage a rapid comeback … warned before the market collapsed … before Wall Street was virtually bankrupt. … before Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson conned Congress into $787 billion in bailouts … warned before Obama’s 2008 election

Free-market Reaganomics roaring back, more powerful than before

Yes, back in the heat of battle, in September 2008, Klein warned America: “Whatever the events of this week mean, nobody should believe the overblown claims that the market crisis signals the death of ‘free market’ ideology.” Then the meltdown went nuclear.

Klein warned: “Free market ideology has always been a servant to the interests of capital, and its presence ebbs and flows depending on its usefulness to those interests. During boom times, it’s profitable to preach laissez faire, because an absentee government allows speculative bubbles to inflate.”

But “when those bubbles burst, the ideology becomes a hindrance, and it goes dormant while big government rides to the rescue.” Remember: A week later Paulson was on his knee, begging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for that $787 billion bailout, to save our incompetent Wall Street banks that caused the meltdown from certain bankruptcy.

“But rest assured,” continued Klein in September 2008, Reaganomics “ideology will come roaring back when the bailouts are done. The massive debts the public is accumulating to bail out the speculators will then become part of a global budget crisis that will be the rationalization for deep cuts to social programs, and for a renewed push to privatize.”

And yes, America, this war strategy is happening thanks to General Buffett, the new GOP Congress and 16 aggressive anti-democracy GOP governors.

Escalation of new Civil War: GOP dictators killing democracy

After the 2010 election of these new GOP governors, the new Civil War escalated with a new phase of self-destructive “disaster capitalism,” thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision. Their strategy was first revealed in the Wisconsin dictator Scott Walker’s war against the unions. Then last week the GOP assault went nuclear.

Michigan’s GOP Gov. Rick Snyder signed the “much despised emergency financial manager legislation into law,” said local ABC news, labeling the law “draconic” for giving the governor new dictatorial powers to appoint “emergency financial managers … to run struggling cities and schools, including the ability to terminate union contracts.”

We learned of Snyder’s democracy-killing coup a week earlier when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow interviewed Naomi Klein. Maddow also exposed another particularly harsh tactic: Snyder’s $1.7 billion tax hikes against seniors and the poor. He was “not using it to close the budget gap. He is giving it away in the form of $1.8 billion in corporate tax cuts.”

Get it, folks? In the GOP governors new strategy escalating this Civil War, the GOP is robbing the poor to give to the rich.

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National Debt Grows From $13T To $14T In 6 Months

ABC Video - Jonathan Karl - June 2010

To demonstrate how quickly the national debt is growing, we are posting this clip that aired on ABC seven months ago when the debt first crossed $13 trillion. We are now past $14 trillion. Excellent reporting from Jonathan Karl, including hypocrisy from Harry Reid that confirms what you already know.


HILARIOUS - JPMorgan Silver Manipulation Explained

Video - Bernanke, Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan, and Silver

I've been saving this all week for Friday night. This is almost as good as the Ben Ber-Nank. I'm cautious about posting animated crap, but this deserves a spot on the front page.

  • "The Ben Ber-Nank uses the JP Morgue as its proxy to short the silver."


J.P. Morgan Getting Squeezed In Silver Market?


Dallas Fed President Warns: US Debt Situation At “Tipping Point”

The latest comments from Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher at the House of Finance in Frankfurt, Germany would have been considered blogosphere doom & gloom and fear mongering just a couple of years ago:

The U.S. debt situation is at a “tipping point,” Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher said on Tuesday, and urged the U.S. central bank to refrain from any further stimulus measures.

If we continue down on the path on which the fiscal authorities put us, we will become insolvent. The question is when,” Fisher said in a speech at the University of Frankfurt.

Fisher, seen by economists as one of the most hawkish policymakers within the Fed, said that although debt-cutting measures would be painful, he expected the U.S. to take the necessary actions.

“The short-term negotiations are very important. I look at this as a tipping point.”

He said the U.S. economy was now growing under its own steam, but voiced his concerns about building global inflation pressures and said it was now time for the central bank to stop pumping out extra support.

“The Fed has done enough, if not too much, and we should do no more.. In my opinion no further accommodation is necessary after June either by tapering off the bottom of treasuries or by adding another tranche of purchases outright.”

“The real question is when do we stop accommodation.”

“We need to continue to discuss the exit policy… but before you can tighten you have to stop accommodating,” he said.

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David Stockman: Bernanke's Crony Capitalism Strikes Again

How the Federal Reserve is juicing speculators...again.

By David Stockman

Someone has to stop the Fed before it crushes what remains of America’s main street economy. Last Friday morning alone it launched two more financial sector pumping operations which will harm the real economy, even as these actions juice Wall Street’s speculative humors.

First, joining the central banking cartels’ market rigging operation in support of the yen, the Fed helped bail out carry traders from a savage short-covering squeeze. Then, green lighting the big banks for another go-round of the dividend and share-buyback scam, it handsomely rewarded options traders who had been front-running this announcement for weeks.

Indeed, this sort of action is so blatant that the Fed might as well just look for a financial vein in the vicinity of 200 West St. [Goldman Sachs (GS) headquarters], and proceed straight-away to mainline the trading desks located there. In fact, such an action would amount to a POMO [Permanent Open Market Operations] – so it is already doing just that!

In any event, the yen intervention certainly had nothing to do with the evident distress of the Japanese people. What happened is that one of the potent engines of the global carry-trade – the massive use of the yen as a zero cost funding currency – backfired violently in response to the unexpected disasters in Japan.

Accordingly, this should have been a moment of condign punishment – wiping out years of speculative gains in heavily leveraged commodity and Emerging Markets currency and equity wagers, and putting two-way risk back into the markets for so-called risk assets. Instead, once again, speculators were assured that in the global financial casino operated by the world’s central bankers, the house always has their back – this time with an exchange rate cap on what would otherwise have been a catastrophic surge in their yen funding costs.

Is it any wonder, then, that the global economy is being pummeled by one speculative tsunami after the next? Ever since the latest surge was trigged last summer by the Jackson Hole smoke signals about QE2, the violence of the price action in the risk asset flavor of the week – cotton, met coal, sugar, oil, coffee, copper, rice, corn, heating oil and the rest – has been stunning, with moves of 10% a week or more.

In the face of these ripping commodity index gains, the Fed’s argument that surging food costs are due to emerging market demand growth is just plain lame. Was there a worldwide fasting ritual going on during the months just before the August QE2 signals when food prices were much lower? And haven’t the EM economies been growing at their present pace for about the last 15 years now, not just the last seven months?

Similarly, the supply side has had its floods and droughts – like always. But these don’t explain the price action, either. Take Dr. Copper’s own price chart during the past 12 months: last March the price was $3.60 per pound – after which it plummeted to $2.80 by July, rose to $4.60 by February and revisited $4.10 per pound a few days ago.

That violent round trip does not chart Mr. Market’s considered assessment of long-term trends in mining capacity or end-use industrial consumption. Instead, it reflects central bank triggered speculative tides which begin on the futures exchanges and ripple out through inventory stocking and de-stocking actions all around the world – even reaching the speculative copper hoards maintained by Chinese pig farmers and the vandals who strip-mine copper from the abandoned tract homes in Phoenix.

Continue reading....

The financial scam of the century

In 2010 we added 600,000 millionaires while 5,000,000 people were added to the food stamp program. Wealthy derive profits from stocks while middle class hold most of their net worth in housing.

Part of the discontent roaming across America is that the economic recovery is targeted to a small portion of the population. This part of the population controls most of the mainstream media channels so the working and middle class are wondering why isn’t the fact that food, college, health care, or many other day to day items with price increases fails to grace the media agenda? Have you ever heard the words “median household income” or “average income” grace the daily news tube? The problem of course is that some are doing extremely well in our economy. In fact the number of millionaires in the United States soared once again last year. The number of millionaire households jumped to 8.4 million in 2010 increasing by 600,000 last year. Now to contrast this rise in millionaires in 2010 we added 5,000,000 Americans to the national food stamp program. The income inequality gap is only getting more pronounced here. A rising sea is not lifting all ships because many of the reasons for wealth building (i.e., corporations cutting costs to boost profits) directly impacts the working and middle class who own very little in stock. Yet the stock market going up over 100 percent from the March 2009 lows has helped the top 1 percent that control 42 percent of all financial wealth.

Millionaires grow with stock market


Source: Wall Street Journal

This is an interesting chart. The number of U.S. millionaires is back near its 2007 peak. At the same time we have an underemployment rate near 20 percent according to Gallup and 45,000,000 Americans on food assistance. You will also notice that the above chart excludes the primary residence for the household. Why is that? Well most middle class Americans derive their household wealth from real estate, and not the stock market. The real estate market continues to be crushed and prices continue to move lower:


Source: Federal Reserve

While the primary source of wealth for the top 1 percent is stocks and this sector continues to improve thanks to bailouts and the Federal Reserve pumping easy money into investment banks, millions of other Americans are being kicked out of their homes that are losing value. Americans have lost $6.3 trillion in household real estate wealth. If your primary asset for your net worth is collapsing is it any wonder why the majority of the population does not feel this as any sort of economic recovery even though the stock market is now up over 100 percent in a relatively short timeframe?

Growing inequality


Source: Marginal Revolution

There is nothing wrong with having a system that rewards wealth building. In fact this is encouraged and should be supported. Yet the system in place actually encourages short term graft at the expensive of long term growth. Many investment banks knew and helped create the housing bubble by setting up a system that took a stable investment in homes and turned it into another commodity for global speculation. Since investment banks knew this would go bust, many lobbied politicians early on for a preparation in bailouts to save them from their massive graft once it imploded. Many investors including giant investment banks made money on the misery of millions of Americans. How is this a good system? In the end the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury rolled out trillions of dollars of bailouts to the financial sector. This is why one tiny part of our economy is booming at the expense of others.

The chart above shows the growing income inequality in the country. A strong middle class can only thrive when productivity is rewarded and graft is punished. You cannot have a CEO making 500 times what the average worker makes especially when that CEO was instrumental in the financial products that crushed our nation. Yet that is the current system we are in. The media tries to brainwash the public that these captains of industry are somehow doing a good deed for the country. They are not. They are selling out the economy via plutocracy and not even capitalism. If this were truly capitalism most of the investment banks on Wall Street would be gone only to be replaced by other banks that actually take a fiduciary responsibility of their clients.

Incomes stagnant


Source: Social Security

The average working American pulls in $25,000 for the year. Given the rise of two income households this coincides with Census data that shows the median household income of $50,000. Yet the cost of many items is eating away at their incomes; food, health care, college costs, and energy keep going up while income remains stagnant or declines. Public college systems, the typical route toward a middle class lifestyle are becoming more and more expensive as states lose revenues. The wealthy class in this country does not care since this can create a system where the public is uneducated about their methods of robbing from the productive class.

Does this look like a recovery to you?


More and more Americans keep getting added to the food stamp program. All the while those in the millionaire ranks continue to grow. With an abundance of labor, companies can keep wages low or threaten to take companies overseas (which they are doing anyway). Ironically many of the bailed out investment banks are funneling money to emerging markets because of better gains. These same investment banks were on bended knee in Congress asking for trillions of dollars for the American people. That was a lie and a Trojan Horse. It was the swindle of the century.
The rise of alternative media is merely a reflection of how disconnected our country has become. People don’t need a doctorate in finance to figure out their incomes are declining and the quality of life for the middle class is shrinking. All they need to do is look at their bank account. Much of the last decade of income losses was plastered over with massive debt growth:


Source: Calculated Risk

The only reason many in the middle class felt richer in the last decade is because of the housing bubble. But that was all a giant lie built by Wall Street investment banks with products like CDOs, CDSs, and the entire mortgage backed securities industry. When the entire casino went bust, Wall Street received their government welfare handout while the public is now confronted with higher taxes, less public goods, and is now being asked to live with austerity to pay for their graft. We don’t want to stop that millionaire train while more and more Americans depend on food assistance. What about the investment banks? What austerity measures are they taking? To the contrary their profits are even higher since they have unlimited access to the Federal Reserve at virtually zero percent interest rates. Expect income disparity to continue since we have a Wall Street run government and much of this will not be broadcast on national television.

Ex-White House economists issue debt warning

Dees Illustration

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Ten former White House economists on Thursday called for US politicians of all stripes to get serious about tackling the country's spiraling debt, warning of a looming crisis "that could dwarf 2008."

The bipartisan group -- ten former chairs of the White House Council of Economic Advisers -- said Washington's spats over short-term budget cuts were distracting from "a more dire problem", the long-term deficit.

"(It) is a severe threat that calls for serious and prompt attention," they warned, in the open letter published by the Washington politics journal Politico.

"Divided government is no excuse for inaction," signatories, including President Barack Obama's former top economic adviser, Christina Romer said.

"While the actual deficit is likely to shrink over the next few years as the economy continues to recover, the aging of the baby-boom generation and rapidly rising health care costs are likely to create a large and growing gap between spending and revenues," they said.

"These deficits will take a toll on private investment and economic growth. At some point, bond markets are likely to turn on the United States -- leading to a crisis that could dwarf 2008."

The signatories included economic policy luminaries like Martin Baily and Laura Tyson, both heads of the council under the Democratic Bill Clinton administration, and Edward Lazear and Gregory Mankiw, who held the same job during the Republican government of George W. Bush.

They called for the White House and Congress to begin weighing proposals by the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, who issued its report in January.

Those included the hot-button issues of cutting long-term health care and social security benefits, eliminating popular personal and corporate tax breaks, and some other tax increases.

"To be sure, we don't all support every proposal here," they wrote.

"Yet we all strongly support prompt consideration of the commission's proposals. The unsustainable long-run budget outlook is a growing threat to our well-being. Further stalemate and inaction would be irresponsible."

© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license

Unemployment rises in nearly all metro areas

Unemployment rose in nearly all of the 372 largest U.S. cities in January compared to the previous month, mostly because of seasonal changes such as the layoff of temporary retail employees hired for the holidays.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate rose in 351 metro areas, fell in only 16, and was unchanged in five. That's worse than December, when the rate fell in 207 areas and increased in 122.

Other seasonal trends, such as the layoff of construction workers due to winter weather, also contributed to the widespread increase.
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Sales of luxe doomsday bunkers up 1,000%

950-person bunker from
Blake Ellis
CNN Money

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A devastating earthquake strikes Japan. A massive tsunami kills thousands. Fears of a nuclear meltdown run rampant. Bloodshed and violence escalate in Libya.

And U.S. companies selling doomsday bunkers are seeing sales skyrocket anywhere from 20% to 1,000%.

Northwest Shelter Systems, which offers shelters ranging in price from $200,000 to $20 million, has seen sales surge 70% since the uprisings in the Middle East, with the Japanese earthquake only spurring further interest. In hard numbers, that's 12 shelters already booked when the company normally sells four shelters per year.

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Possible Constitutional Standoff in Utah Over Sound Money Verse The Fiat Federal Reserve Note?

If anyone gets a chance to read the book "The Creature From Jekyll Island" by G.Edward Griffin. I can say it is a must read to learn about the insidious nature of the robber barons. Monopolies are not created by a very limited government.These monopolies only happen when there is government interference in favor one corporation over another.They do this by buying off politicians to pass laws that gives the corporation an upper hand for a certain favored Tycoon so they can shut down any competition That is how they create these monopolies.
It is the same with the Federal Reserve Act were Congress hands over their Constitutional power and responsibility to coin money and determine the value thereof to Private Central Bankers creating a monopoly over the issuance of the currency.Government intervention at it best.This gave them power over the economy to control trade and commerce.When the Federal Reserve Act was just a piece of Legislation. It was promised this bill would stop booms and busts in the economy. This bill was sold to stop panics on the banks and would keep us out of a depression was the talking points of the day. It did not stop the crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve Bank orchestrated it by design.
Now we fast forward to today. The Federal Reserve Bank controls all of the economy.Last year.There was legislation that passed congress and now law. It made this Private Central Bank the financial dictator over the whole economy deciding who are the winners and losers in this global economy. The Federal reserve bank is printing money to bail out Wall Street putting the burden on the people to pay for this through a hidden tax called inflation.The Federal Reserve Note is the currency of the day. This Fiat money is a legalized counterfeiting operation because it was made legal tender under the Federal Reserve Act. This central bank is now has a choke hold on the people and the economy. The value of the Dollar is being debased and devalued which is a direct violation of the Coinage Act of 1798. To debase and devalue the currency by counterfeiting is punishable with death by this act of Congress. The Head of the Federal Reserve is firing up the printing presses debasing the currency by every dollar that is printed to keep Wall Street afloat.
The head of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernake is doing QE-1 starting on QE-2 and planning on QE-3. QE meaning Quantitative Easing meaning pumping money into Banker's and Wall Street's pockets for there benefit only. To us people who live on Main Street and not on Wall Street. Quantitative Easing for Wall Street is Quantitative Squeezing for the rest of us on Main Street.We feel it at the gas pumps when we fill up our cars and when we shop for food at the Supermarket. Our wages are not going up,But the prices on all the consumables we need are.Everyone feels it in their wallet because the purchasing power of what we earned is diminished because Quantitative Easing for the Wall Street fat cats is Quantitative Squeezing on us. We are paying higher prices to benefit the few at the expense of many. Our very livelihoods are at the mercy of Robber Barons.It seems like there is no end in sight. No relief coming.
Among the Elites who run the central banks as John D Rockefeller said"Competition is a sin" meaning they want to control it all and not have to compete with an other for business.Bernard Von NotHaus was convicted for minting the Ron Paul Liberty Dollar in Federal Court. His crime?Minting Recently collectible Gold and Silver coins that was the Legal tender before the Federal Reserve Act was law. These collectible gold and silver coins in circulation posed threat to the bankers monopoly on the issuance of the currency because gold and silver is real money.Not funny money fiat currency.They could not allow an alternative form of currency to compete with the worthless Federal Reserve Note. When people have real money in their hands. The bankers can not control the value of currencies backed by precious metals.They can not manipulate it and control it. If this alternative form of currency was ever to be used as real money traded for good and services.They would lose control of the economy. That is a threat to their monopoly on power that really frightens them because their fraud would be exposed.
Now seeing the writing on the wall seeing the Federal Reserve bank is destroying the economy. States are feeling the shortfall in the budgets and their economies deteriorating. Some State Legislators in a handful of States have been forced to take a look at some action to keep their states functioning in the light of an economic collapse because the devaluing of the dollar.The State of Utah has passed a bill in both houses making gold and silver legal tender. This I can say with out it being reported that it is sending shock waves to the Federal Reserve Bank and has emboldened States to follow Utah's lead. The Utah governor has not signed the bill yet making it law. If the governor vetoes the bill. The Legislator can override the veto by both houses making it law without the governor signature or the governor can sign it that would have other states empowered to act in following Utah's path. State Legislators now has bills filed in Virginia,Georgia,South Carolina,New Hampshire and Tennessee. If these States follow Utah's example.We can have a constitutional standoff between the states who make gold and silver their currency and the Federal government being the Bankers hired gun to try to squash any movement toward sound money.
If the Governor of Utah signs this bill and becomes law.Can we see the Federal Government coming in like they did with the Liberty dollar to seize the mold,dyes,gold and silver too? If the Federal Government comes into confiscate everything.Will there be a armed confrontation between the state's police forces and Federal agents trying to stop the minting of coins? Will the Bankers try to use Utah as an example telling other states not to dare try to have their own money.This will happen to you if the Feds are successful stamping out anym move to towards honest money . I can tell right now the governor of Utah is under tremendous pressure from the people and the Federal government. The people want sound money. The Federal government being the Bankers henchmen might have threatened the Utah Governor.Threats to do what they did to John F. Kennedy in Daley Plaza in Dallas after he signed an executive order to print silver backed dollar and retire the Federal Reserve Note. It is not reported too much this bill passing in the Utah Legislator is because the establishment wants to suppress popular support from within Utah and outside the State. Utah has the Bankers scared big time.
Why are the Bankers scared?Because if the Utah Governor signs the bill and the Federal Government fails to stop the state using Gold and Silver backed currency.Many other states like dominoes in a chain reaction will follow Utah's lead. This can cause the Federal government to collapse like the Soviet Union if a good number of states are using honest money and the Federal government has only worthless paper to fund itself that can not compete with a precious metal backed currency. It is a threat to their power. Sound money is the bankster's worse nightmare .When the Federal Reserve note becomes obsolete because it can not compete with sound money. So will the choke hold of the Federal government and the Bankers we will be free from too.It is just a matter of time.

US home prices hit nine year low

Billionaires Flourish, Inequalities Deepen as Economies “Recover”

The bailouts of banks, speculators and manufacturers served their real purposes: the multi-millionaires became billionaires and the later became multi-billionaires

James Petras


According to the annual report of the business magazine Forbes there are 1,210 individuals – and in many cases family clans – with a net value of $1 billion dollars (or more). There total net worth is $4 trillion, 500 billion dollars, greater than the combined worth of 4 billion people in the world. The current concentration of wealth exceeds any previous period in history; from King Midas, the Maharajahs, and the Robber Barons to the recent Silicon Valley – Wall Street moguls of the present decade.

An analysis of the source of wealth of the super-rich, the distribution in the world economy and the methods of accumulation highlights several important differences with major political consequences. We will proceed to identify these specific features of the super-rich, starting with the United States and follow with an analysis of the rest of the world.

The Super-Rich in the US: Greatest Living Parasites

The US has the most billionaires in the world (413), better than one third of the total, the greatest proportion among the “big countries in the world. A closer look also reveals that among the top 200 billionaires (those with $5.2 billion and more) there are 57 from the US (29%). Over one third made their fortune through speculative activity, predators on the productive economy and exploiters of the property and stock market. This is the highest percentage of any major country in Europe or Asia (with the exception of England). The enormous concentration of wealth in the hands of this tiny parasitical ruling class is one reason why the US has the worst inequalities of any advanced economy and among the worst in the entire world. Speculators do not employ workers, they secure tax loopholes and bailouts and then press for cuts in the social budget, since they do not require a healthy, educated workforce (except for a tiny elite). In 1976 the top 1% held 20% of the wealth; in 2007 they commanded 35% of total wealth. Eighty percent of Americans own only 15% of the wealth. The recent economic crises, which initially reduced the total wealth of the country, did so in an uneven fashion – hitting the majority of workers and employees worse. The Bush-Obama bailout led to the economic recovery, not of the “economy in general”, but was confined to further enhancing the wealth of the billionaires – which explains why the unemployment/under employment rate has hardly moved, why the fiscal debt and trade deficit grows and the state lowers corporate taxes and slashes federal, state and municipal budgets. The “dynamic” sector composed of parasitical capitalists employ few workers, exports no products, pays lower taxes and imposes greater cuts in social spending for productive workers. In the case of the US, billionaires, their wealth is largely accrued via the pillage of the state treasury and productive economy and via speculation in the information technology sector which houses one-fifth of the top billionaires.

BRIC’s: The New billionaires: Exploiting Labor of Nature

The leading emerging capitalist countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) hailed by the mass media for their rapid growth over the past decade are producing billionaires at a faster rate than any bloc of countries in the world. According to the latest data in Forbes (March 2011), the number of billionaires in the BRICs increased over 56% from 193 in 2010 to 301 in 2011, exceeding that of Europe.

The high growth of the BRICs – has led to the concentration and centralization of capital, in every case promoted by state policies which provides low interest loans, subsidies, tax incentives, unrestricted exploitation of natural resources and labor, the dispossession of small property owners and the give-away of publically owned enterprises.

The dynamic growth of billionaires in the BRICs has led to the most egregious inequalities in the world. Among the BRICs, China leads the way with the greatest number of billionaires (115) and the worst inequalities in all of Asia, in sharp contrast to its Communist past when it was the most egalitarian country in the world. An examination of the source of wealth of China’s super rich reveals that it has resulted from the exploitation of labor in the manufacturing sector, speculation in real-estate and construction and trade. China has surpassed the US as the world’s biggest manufacturer in 2011, as a result of the super-exploitation of labor in China and the growth of parasitical financial capital in the US.

In contrast to the US, China’s working class is making significant inroads into the profiteering of its manufacturing and real estate elite.As a result of working class struggle, wages have been growing between 10% and 20% over the past 5 years; protests by farmers and urban households against state sanctioned evictions by real estate speculators have exceeded 100,000 per year.

The wealth of Russian billionaires on the other hand resulted from the violent theft of public resources (oil, gas, aluminum, iron, steel, etc.), developed by the previous Communist regime. The great majority of Russian billionaires depend on the export of commodities, pillaging and devastating the natural environment under a corrupt and deregulated regime. The contrast in living and working conditions between the western oriented billionaires and the Russian working class is largely the result of the siphoning off of wealth to overseas accounts, offshore investments and extraordinary personal luxuries including multi-million dollar real estate. In contrast to China’s industrial elite, Russia’s billionaires resemble the parasitical ‘rentiers’ found among Wall Street speculators and Persian Gulf sheiks.

India’s billionaires are a combination of old and new rich drawing their wealth by exploiting low wage industrial workers, dispossessing slum and tribal peoples, as well as from diversified holdings in real estate, IT and software. India’s billionaires accumulated their wealth through their class-kin linkages to the very corrupt higher echelons of the political class, securing monopolies via state contracts. India’s high growth over the past decade (averaging 7%) and the upsurge in billionaires upward to 55 by 2011, are both linked the neo-liberal policies of deregulation, privatization and globalization, which have concentrated wealth at the top, undermined small scale producers and dispossessed tens of millions.

Brazil’s billionaire class has expanded rapidly, especially under the leadership of the Workers Party, to 29, up from single digits a decade earlier. Today over two-thirds of Latin America’s billionaires are Brazilians. The centerpiece of Brazil’s super rich wealth is the financial-banking sector which has benefited enormously from the monetary, fiscal and neo-liberal policies of the Lula Da Silva regime. Billionaire bankers have been the principle beneficiaries of the agro-mineral export economy which has flourished over the past decade, at the expense of the manufacturing sector. Despite claims by Workers Party leaders, the class inequalities between the mass of minimum wage workers ($380 per month as of March 2011) and the super-rich continues to be worst in Latin America. An analysis of the source of wealth among Brazilian billionaires reveals that 60% accrued their wealth in the finance, real estate and insurance (FIRE) sector and only one (3%) in the capital or intermediary maufacturing sector. Brazil’s boom in economic growth and billionaires fits the profile of a ‘colonial economy’: heavy in conspicuous consumption, commodity exports and presided over by a dominant financial sector which promotes neo-liberal policies. Over the course of the past decade despite the populist political theatrics and paternalistic poverty-programs sponsored by the “center-left” Workers Party, the major socio-economic outcome has been the growth of a class of “super-rich” billionaires concentrated in banking with powerful links to the agro-mineral sectors. The free-market high growth financial-agro-mineral class has degraded the manufacturing sector, especially textiles and shoes, as well as capital and intermediary goods producers.

The BRICs are producing more,and growing faster than the established imperial powers in Europe and the US but they are also producing monstrous inequalities and concentrations of wealth .The socio-economicconsequences have already manifested themselves in increasing class conflict especially in China and India, as intensive exploitation and dispossession have provoked mass action. The Chinese political elite seems to be the most conscious of the political threat posed by the growing concentration of wealth and is in the midst of promoting substantial wage increases and greater local consumption which seems to be lowering profit margins among some sectors of the manufacturing elite. Perhaps the ‘historical memory’ of the “cultural revolution’ and the Maoist legacy plays a role in alerting the political elite to the political dangers resulting from “capitalist excesses” associated with the high levels of exploitation and the rapid growth of a class of politically connected kinship based billionaires.

Middle East:

Over the past decade the most dynamic country in the Middle East has been Turkey. Led by a liberal democratic regime of Islamic inspiration, Turkey has led the region in GDP growth and in the production of billionaires. The Turkish economic performance has been presented by the World Bank and the IMF as a model for the post dictatorial regimes in the Arab world – ‘high growth’, a diversified economy based on the growing concentration of wealth.Turkey has 35% more billionaires (37) than the Gulf and North African states combined (24). The ‘secret’ of Turkish growth is the high rates of investments in diverse industries and the intensive exploitation of labor. Many Turkish billionaires(14) derive their wealth via ‘conglomerates’, investments in diverse manufacturing, finance and construction sectors. Apart from the ‘conglomerate’ billionaires, there are ‘specialist billionaires’ who have accumulated wealth from banking, construction and food manufacturing. One of the reasons Turkey has rebuked and challenged Israeli power in the Middle East is because its capitalists are eager to project investments and penetrate markets in the Arab world. Apart from the highly Zionized US political system, the ruling elites and publics in Europe and Asia have looked favorably on Turkey’s opposition to Israel’s massacres in Gaza and violation of international law on the high seas. If a modern liberal Islamic regime can grow rapidly through the rapid expansion of a diversified class of the super-rich,so does Israel, a modern neo- liberal-Judaic state based on the rapid growth of a highly diverse class of billionaires. Israel with 16 billionaires is a country with the fastest growing class inequalities in the region-with the highest per-capita billionaires in the world… Israel’s “growth sectors”, software, military industries, finance, insurance and diamonds and overseas investments in metals and mining are led by billionaires and multi-millionaires who have benefited from Zionist induced financial handouts from the US pillage of resources from the ex USSR and transfer of funds by Russian-Israeli oligarchs and though joint ventures with Jewish-American billionaires in software corporations, especially in the “security” sector. Israel’s high percentage of billionaires at a time of sharp cuts in social spending puts the lie to its claim to be a ‘social democracy’ in the midst of Arab ‘sheiksdoms.’ As a matter of record, Israel has twice as many billionaires (16) as Saudi Arabia (8) and more super-rich than the entire Gulf countries (13). The fact that Israel has more billionaires per capita than any other country has not prevented its Zionist supporters in the US from pressing for additional 20 billions in aid over the next decade. Unlike the past,today Israel’s wealth concentration has less to do with its being the biggest recipient of foreign aid …Israel’s handouts is a political issue: Zionist power over the Congressional purse. Given the total wealth of Israel’s billionaires a five percent tax would more than compensate for any cut off of US foreign aid. But that is not about to happen simply because Zionist power in America dictates that the US taxpayers subsidize Israel’s plutocrats by paying for their offensive weaponry.


The “economic crises” of 2008-2009 inflicted only temporary losses to some (US-EU) billionaires and not others (Asian). Thanks to trillion dollar/Euro/yen bailouts, the billionaires class has recovered and expanded, even as wages in the US and Europe stagnate and ‘living standards’ are slashed by massive cutbacks in health, education, employment and public services.

What is striking about the recovery, growth, and expansion of the world’s billionaires is how dependent their accumulation of wealth is based on pillage of state resources; how much of their fortunes were based on neo-liberal policies which led to the takeover at bargain prices of privatized public enterprises; how state de-regulation allows for plunder of the environment to extract resources at the highest rate of return; how the state promoted the expansion of speculative activity in real estate, finance and hedge funds, while encouraging the growth of monopolies, oligopolies and conglomerates which captured “super profits” – rates above the ‘historical level’. Billionaires in the BRICs and in the older imperial centers (Europe, US and Japan) have been the primary tax beneficiaries of reductions and elimination of social programs and labor rights.

What is absolutely clear is that the state not the market plays a essential role in facilitating the greatest concentration and centralization of wealth in world history, whether in facilitating the plundering of the treasury and the environment or in heightening the direct and indirect exploitation of labor .

The variations in the paths to ‘billionaire’ status are striking: in the US and UK, the parasitical – speculative sector predominates over the productive; among the BRICs – with the exception of Russia diverse sectors incorporating manufacturers, software, finance and agro-mineral billionaires predominate. In China the abysmal economic gap between the billionaires and the working class, between real estate speculators and dispossessed household is lead to increasing class conflict and challenges, forcing significant increases in wages (over 20% the past 3 years) and demands for increased public spending on education, health and housing. Nothing comparable is occurring in the US , EU or in the other BRICs.

The sources of billionaire wealth are , at best,only partially due to ‘entrepreneurial innovations’. Their wealth may have begun, at an earlier phase, from producing useful goods and services; but as the capitalist economies ‘mature’ and shift toward finance, overseas markets and the search for higher profits by imposing neo-liberal policies, the economic profile of the billionaire class shifts toward the parasitical model of the established imperial centers.

The billionaires in the BRICs, Turkey and Israel contrast sharply from the Middle East oil billionaires who are ‘rentiers’ living off ‘rents’ from exploiting oil and gas and overseas investments especially in the FIRE sector. Among the BRICs only the Russian billionaire oligarchs resemble the rentiers of the Gulf. The rest, especially Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Turkish billionaires have taken advantage of state promoted industrial policies to concentrate wealth under the rhetoric of ‘national champions’, promoting their own ‘interests’ in the name of a “successful emerging economy”. But the basic class questions remains: “growth for whom and who benefits?”. So far the historical record shows that growth of billionaires has been based on a highly polarized economy in which the state serves the new class of billionaires, whether parasitical speculators as in the US, rentier pillagers of the state and environment such as Russia and the Gulf states or exploiters of labor such as in the BRICs.

Post Script

The Arab revolt can be seen in part as an effort to overthrow ‘rentier capitalist clans’. Western intervention in the revolts and support of the “opposition” military and political elites is an effort to substitute a ‘neo-liberal’ capitalist ruling class.This “new class”would be based on the exploitation of labor and dispossession of current crony-clan-kin owners of resources Major enterprises would be transferred to multi-nationals and local capitalists. Much more promising are the internal working struggles in China and to lesser degree in Brazil and the rural based Maoist peasant and tribal movements in India which oppose rentier and capitalist exploitation and dispossession.

Budget crisis? How much does one tomahawk missile fired at Libya cost?

Ask questions and demand answers! Start with this one: If there is a budget crisis why is there always taxpayer money for useless foreign wars?

Michael Hoffman

The media and the Obama administration have forgotten that we are supposed to be broke: there’s no money for quality public schools, public employee pensions, roads, bridges, high speed rail, Social Security and Medicare, but there’s always money for bombs and missiles.

Let’s call on Congress to require a daily report to the American people on how much our 700 military bases around the world cost us to operate per day!

How much does one tomahawk missile cost? How many have been fired at Libya thus far? How much does one day of our useless war in Afghanistan cost? How much does it cost us to fire missiles from Predator drones at civilians in Pakistan, per attack? What is the day to day price tag for our nation-building in Iraq?

Why does the Establishment media consistently fail to provide the cost of these wars and military bases?

Let’s call on the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the neocons to show us where in the Constitution does it say our armed forces are required to police the world? I challenge these mountebank “Constitutionalists” to show me one line in the United States Constitution authorizing this socialism for the military-industrial complex.

But Hoffman, we must protect the civilians in Libya. Don’t make me laugh! We want to install our own Hamid Karzai type of puppet in Libya, that’s all. Ghaddafy was our puppet, but not enough of a puppet. We desire a 100% puppet. If protecting innocent civilians was the goal of the US government we wouldn’t launch missiles at jirga meetings in Pakistan or fund the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza (we provided the arms and the cash for the killing of 1600 people, mostly civilians). In Bahrain, civilians are being killed. The U.S. Seventh Fleet in based in Bahrain. We could stop the killings at any time, but since these are Shiites beings murdered, we approve.The bottom line that must be emphasized is the cost of our two-faced policing of the world —we can’t afford it, yet the Obama regime is doing it anyway, because there is no democracy in America. The people’s will is not done.

The American people desire quality of life first and foremost for our own. We don’t want our elderly eating out of garbage bins. We don’t want our poor denied medical care. We demand high speed rail to get us off the dangerous highways and off our addiction to $4-per-gallon gasoline. We want top quality public and private education for the next generation; expansion of libraries, parks and green space; a living wage and a decent pension for all workers, but we can’t afford these things because Bush Jr. and Bush III (Obama) have blown the treasury on war and more war, in perpetuity, and the cost is not an issue for our media and politicians. If it were, they would report the cost, but they don’t. They’re afraid to report it because it would wake us up.

I write from Idaho, where the governor and the superintendent of schools seek to increase classroom size to “save money.” The size of the class is a determinant of the quality of the education the child receives. This fact is not subject to debate. Hence, the governor of Idaho and the superintendent of Idaho’s schools are knowingly degrading the education of our youth in order to pinch pennies. Idaho, once a peace-loving state with senators of the calibre of Frank Church, is now a right wing “patriot” enclave that gives a blank check to useless foreign wars of the kind endorsed by neocon Charles Krauthammer, liberal Sen. Charles Schumer and Sarah “Half Term Governor” Palin. Penny-pinching Republican misers encourage unlimited government spending on foreign wars. We must make this an issue.

Ask questions and demand answers! Start with this one: If there is a budget crisis why is there always taxpayer money for useless foreign wars?

Hoffman is the author of seven books of history and literature including his banned and damned 1100 page textbook, Judaism Discovered.

The FED's many mistakes will lead to its demise" - Jim Rogers on The FED (March 21, 2011).

Fears of full meltdown as more smoke rising from Fukushima rectors

Budget 2011: Younger staff will work to 80 under pension link to rising lifespans

Millions of employees could see their retirement pushed back at least 12 months every two years after George Osborne announced plans to link the pension age to rising longevity.

Younger staff will work to 80 under pension link to rising lifespans
Younger staff will work to 80 under pension link to rising lifespans Photo: ALAMY

Follow our Budget 2011 live coverage for the latest news on the 2011 Budget.

In a move intended to halt the trend for workers to spend a growing proportion of their lives in retirement, the Chancellor announced a mechanism to raise the state retirement age automatically in line with life expectancy. The pension age is already due to increase to 66 by 2020.

But with one in five people alive today expected to celebrate their 100th birthday, ministers have concluded that more radical steps are necessary.

Mr Osborne said it would no longer be “affordable” to provide an adequate state pension when most people could retire at the relatively young age of 65 or earlier.

In future, he said, regular, independent reviews should establish longevity rates, which would then be used to decide the state pension age.

Retirement for millions of public sector employees is due to be linked to the state pension age by the end of the current parliament, so the move will affect a significant proportion of the workforce. Longevity is rising at a rate of seven months every year, meaning that, under the proposal, employees in their twenties, thirties and forties could find themselves working beyond their 75th or even 80th birthday.

A number of other European countries, including Sweden, Norway and Germany, have introduced some link between the state retirement age and life expectancy.

Mr Osborne said that adopting a similar link would “help Britain live within her means”. He said he wanted pensions which were fair to workers and “fair to the taxpayers who have to fund them”.

Big pension funds increased their longevity expectations for the fourth year running last year, saying they expected future pensioners to live an extra seven months. Men who are currently 65 should expect to live until they are 87 years and five months, while women will survive to nearly 90 on average.

At the current rate, by 2066, around half a million people a year will be celebrating their 100th birthday, compared with about 10,000 now.

Charities warned that older people without good health would struggle.

Michelle Mitchell of Age UK said: “We accept that rises in the state pension age should be considered. But we must guard against any automatic system for future increases being based solely on average life expectancy.

“Other equally important factors must be taken into account such as the impact on the poorest, the unemployed and those with health problems.”

Pension fund managers welcomed the move. Joanne Segars, of the National Association of Pension Funds, said: “As people live longer, increases in the state pension age are a must. But they need to be handled fairly.

The plan seemed sensible, “as long as people are given enough time to plan for their retirement”.

US factory orders drop unexpectedly

© AFP/Getty Images/File Stephen Brashear

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Lower demand for machinery and defense equipment prompted a fall in US factory orders in February, the Commerce Department said Thursday, dashing hopes for a rebound after start-of-year blizzards.

New orders for big-ticket items -- such as planes, computers and cars -- fell 0.9 percent during the month, led by a 4.2 percent drop in machinery orders.

That shocked economists, who had expected orders to rise.

"We expected a hefty rebound after the blizzards depressed core orders in January," said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics.

But experts took some heart from the fact that without wildly erratic defense equipment, new orders would have actually risen 0.4 percent.

"Bottom line is that this does not look good," said Shepherdson, adding that lingering weather effects or statistical anomalies may yet be to blame.

© AFP -- Published at Activist Post with license

Brussels protesters clash with police before EU summit

Police direct water cannon at a protester in Brussels, 24 March Police forced back the protesters with water cannon

Police in the Belgian capital Brussels have used water cannon and tear gas on protesters hurling bottles and stones ahead of an EU summit.

Scuffles began when a small group of protesters moved into the Rue de la Loi, a street close to the summit venue in the city's European quarter.

The group reportedly grew in size as the confrontation increased.

Thousands of other demonstrators have been protesting peacefully in the city against EU austerity cuts.

Trade unions called on them to challenge moves to commit governments to a new "Euro Pact" that seeks to moderate wages in a bid to make Europe's economy more competitive against global rivals.

The two-day summit of the EU's 27 heads of state and government is due to start at 1600 GMT.

"The European Commission's annual examination of growth as well as the competitiveness pact launched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will drag wages and social rights down to dangerous levels," Belgium's CES union said in a statement.

Protests turn violent in Brussels as summit nears

(Reuters) - Security forces and demonstrators clashed ahead of a European Union leaders' summit in Brussels Thursday, with police using water cannon to disperse one group of protesters, a police spokeswoman said.

Around 30 demonstrators protesting against the EU's handling of the financial crisis tried to break through barriers and threw rocks at Belgian police, who responded with the water cannon, witnesses and the spokeswoman said.

Police estimated around 12,000 demonstrators had gathered near the European Union institutions where EU leaders will meet later Thursday. Organizers, including labor unions, put the number at closer to 20,000.

The protesters are opposed to an EU competitiveness pact, an agreement reached this month by euro zone leaders to adopt measures like higher retirement ages, a review of wage indexation and more flexible labor markets.

"At the level of pensions, social security and work flexibility, what has been put on the table at the European level is unacceptable," Myriam Delmee, vice-president of the BBTK union in Belgium, told Reuters from the protest.

The demonstrations, mostly by Belgian unions, were due to end at around 1300 GMT.

(Reporting by Ben Deighton; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

Crony Capitalism Strikes Again

How the Federal Reserve is juicing speculators... again

Dees Illustration
David Stockman
Lew Rockwell

Someone has to stop the Fed before it crushes what remains of America’s main street economy. Last Friday morning alone it launched two more financial sector pumping operations which will harm the real economy, even as these actions juice Wall Street’s speculative humors.

First, joining the central banking cartels’ market rigging operation in support of the yen, the Fed helped bail out carry traders from a savage short-covering squeeze. Then, green lighting the big banks for another go-round of the dividend and share-buyback scam, it handsomely rewarded options traders who had been front-running this announcement for weeks.

Indeed, this sort of action is so blatant that the Fed might as well just look for a financial vein in the vicinity of 200 West St. [Goldman Sachs (GS) headquarters], and proceed straight-away to mainline the trading desks located there. In fact, such an action would amount to a POMO [Permanent Open Market Operations] – so it is already doing just that!

In any event, the yen intervention certainly had nothing to do with the evident distress of the Japanese people. What happened is that one of the potent engines of the global carry-trade – the massive use of the yen as a zero cost funding currency – backfired violently in response to the unexpected disasters in Japan.

Accordingly, this should have been a moment of condign punishment – wiping out years of speculative gains in heavily leveraged commodity and Emerging Markets currency and equity wagers, and putting two-way risk back into the markets for so-called risk assets. Instead, once again, speculators were assured that in the global financial casino operated by the world’s central bankers, the house always has their back – this time with an exchange rate cap on what would otherwise have been a catastrophic surge in their yen funding costs.

Is it any wonder, then, that the global economy is being pummeled by one speculative tsunami after the next? Ever since the latest surge was trigged last summer by the Jackson Hole smoke signals about QE2, the violence of the price action in the risk asset flavor of the week – cotton, met coal, sugar, oil, coffee, copper, rice, corn, heating oil and the rest – has been stunning, with moves of 10% a week or more.

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Iowa Couple Owns Home After One Payment Due To Foreclosure Glitch

Facing foreclosure and fed up with the banks trying to take back your home? Well, a foreclosure loophole that helped an Ankeny, Ia., home construction worker and his mortgage loan originator wife win a 2009 court judgment against CitiMortgage, giving them title to their $278,000 house free and clear after only one mortgage payment, just might apply to you, too, even if you live in Arizona, Florida, Nevada or one of several other states.

The Iowa couple, Matt and Jamie Rae Danielson, are now under scrutiny from skeptics who are wondering if perhaps the couple devised a "win-a-free-home" scheme from the get-go.

There was no pre-planning, the couple told AOL Real Estate during a phone interview Monday night, but they wish they can convince their bashers who "are spreading gossip and making accusations" after they became aware of this nearly three-year-old issue when the Des Moines Register wrote about the couple twice last week.

"People are threatening to burn our house down. There are nasty blogs going around where people are outraged," a distraught-sounding Matt, 33, said as a baby cried softly in the background. He says he and his wife didn't seek this loophole when they purchased their house (pictured) in May 2007. "You don't make this kind of thing happen. It happens to you."

It all started when Matt Danielson and his broker, Jason Larson, arranged an impromptu meeting at a mall food court to sign the CitiMortgage financing documents for their new construction 3-bedroom, 2½-bath home that they had been negotiating for a while. Matt dialed his wife's cell but didn't reach her; so in a rushed session he signed the papers without her, finalizing a $320,000 mortgage for 100 percent of the sale price, which included an additional $50,000 to finish the basement.

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Morgan Stanley’s Deep Secret Is Now Revealed

This ray of transparency was not provided by Bernanke, rather it's been sitting unnoticed on the FCIC website, having NOT been included in the final report.

What's another $3.5 billion surreptitious bailout among friends courtesy of the comely Federal Reserve. Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil found it.


Source - Bloomberg

By Jonathan Weil

Here’s a little secret the Federal Reserve Board doesn’t want you to know. On Sept. 24, 2008, while financial markets were collapsing, Morgan Stanley borrowed $3.5 billion through the Fed’s oldest lending program, the 98-year- old discount window.

The Fed has long claimed that releasing this type of data could trigger bank runs, public hysteria, death spirals at financial institutions large and small, and other horrible outcomes. Yet I’ve got a hunch Morgan Stanley somehow will survive this revelation. Mass panic will not ensue. The world will not end.

This is the kind of information the late Bloomberg News reporter Mark Pittman was seeking when he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Fed in May 2008, nine months after the financial crisis began. Among other things, he asked for documents showing which banks had borrowed money under the Fed’s emergency-lending programs and the details of those loans.

The Fed blew off his request. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, responded by suing the central bank. The company won both at the district court level and on appeal. This week, the Supreme Court decided to let those rulings stand. And so almost three years after Pittman sent his original FOIA letter, the Fed finally will have to comply with the law.

The discount window functions as a lifesaver through which qualifying borrowers can secure emergency liquidity during times of severe stress. Historically the Fed had kept the names of borrowers confidential on the grounds that disclosure could stigmatize them in the public’s eyes, even though it was the public’s money the Fed was lending.

As it turns out, the information about Morgan Stanley (MS)’s $3.5 billion discount-window loan has been sitting on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s website since last month. The panel didn’t mention it in its final report. And nobody had written a story about it before. So there: Now it can be told.

You can see the raw data by clicking here. The link takes you to a Morgan Stanley spreadsheet showing the company’s day- to-day liquidity changes during a two-week period in September 2008 when the New York-based bank was fighting for survival. (You may need to magnify the pages 400 percent to see all the numbers.)

The loan came three days after Morgan Stanley said it had received Fed approval to become a bank holding company, giving it access to the discount window for the first time.

A Morgan Stanley spokesman, Mark Lake, confirmed that my reading of the spreadsheet is correct. The bank had stamped the document “confidential treatment requested” when it handed it over to the crisis commission. The panel released it anyway, apparently seeing no harm.

The Fed’s arguments for keeping this sort of data secret were transparently bogus. One Fed economist, Brian Madigan, said in an affidavit that disclosing discount-window borrowers’ names “can quickly place an institution in a weakened condition vis- a-vis its competitors by causing a loss of public confidence in the institution, a sudden outflow of deposits (a ‘run’), a loss of confidence by market analysts, a drop in the institution’s stock price, and a withdrawal of market sources of liquidity.”

Continue reading at Bloomberg...


Banking reform bribery exposed in European Parliament

On the front page of the Sunday Times this morning you will see the headline ‘Euro MPs exposed in ‘cash-for-laws’ scandal’ (£). Journalists from the respected Insight investigative team have posed as financial lobbyists and have approached MEPs offering them large sums of money in return for watering down banking reform legislation.

Three MEPs took the bait and were employed by the fake lobbying company on a yearly salary of €100,000. One of those was 56 year old former Romanian deputy prime minister, Adrian Severin, who apparently emailed the journalists posing as lobbyists writing “Just to let you know that the amendment desired by you has been tabled in due time”. He then sent an invoice for €12,000.

The other two MEPs caught up in the scandal was Slovenian foreign minister Zoran Thaler, and former Austrian interior minister Ernst Strasser. It is said that Ernst additionally boasted about serving at least five commercial clients who each paid him €100,000 per year.

These are pretty shocking revelations. But the most telling quote in the Sunday Times expose comes from Adrian Severin, “I didn’t do anything that was, let’s say, illegal or against any normal behaviour we have here”. As organisations that WDM works with like Spinwatch and Corporate Europe Observatory have long shown, dodgy lobbying by big corporations in this way is commonplace all over Europe, and the world.

But the bigger picture is even more alarming.

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Cooling system at reactor No. 5 “abruptly stopped working on Wednesday afternoon” – TEPCO

Ultrasound at $59,490 Spurs Aetna Outrage in Suit Naming Doctors

Aetna Inc. (AET) is suing six New Jersey doctors over medical bills it calls “unconscionable,” including $56,980 for a bedside consultation and $59,490 for an ultrasound that typically costs $74.

The lawsuits could help determine what pricing limits insurers can impose on ”out-of-network” physicians who don’t have contracts with health plans that spell out how much a service or procedure can cost.

One defendant billed $30,000 for a Caesarean birth, and another raised his fee for seeing a critically ill patient in a hospital to $9,000 in 2008 from $500 the year before, the insurer alleges in the suits. The Caesarean price was more than 10 times the in-network amount Aetna quotes on its website.

“If these charges are accurate, consumers and purchasers should be outraged,” said David Lansky, president of the San Francisco-based Pacific Business Group on Health, a coalition of health-insurance buyers that includes Chevron Corp. (CVX), Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and General Electric Co. (GE)

Lawyers for the doctors declined to comment on specific charges in the suits, and said their clients did nothing wrong.

The insurance industry is grappling with how to respond to out-of-network hospital physicians who realize they have pricing muscle, according to Arthur Leibowitz, chief medical officer of Health Advocate Inc., a Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, insurance adviser.

“These doctors can charge whatever they want,” Leibowitz said. “The challenge for the carriers is to come up with an agreeable, acceptable, unbiased judgment as to what a reasonable and customary reimbursement rate is.”

AMA Lawsuits

Aetna tried in 2007 to impose caps on some out-of-network payments, prompting doctor complaints to the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. The agency sided with the doctors, fined the company $2.5 million, and ordered it to pay out-of-network practitioners enough so that patients wouldn’t be asked to pay balances other than co-pays.

In 2009, Aetna, UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), Cigna Corp. (CI) and WellPoint Inc. (WLP) were accused by the New York attorney general of underpaying out-of-network physicians by manipulating a database used to calculate payments. They paid a total of $90 million in settlements without admitting wrongdoing. UnitedHealthcare agreed that year to pay $350 million to settle a lawsuit by the American Medical Association over the same issues. Similar AMA lawsuits against Aetna, Cigna and Wellpoint are pending.

Rare Glimpse

The Aetna lawsuits, filed in superior court in Camden, New Jersey, over the last eight months, allege the defendants violated New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners rules against excessive fees, and seek triple damages under state insurance- fraud laws against filing false or misleading claims.

The complaints provide a rare glimpse at the sums physicians earn from an insurer and the huge variations in what different doctors charge and receive for the same services.

Aetna reimbursed the defendants $8.3 million in 2009, up from $4.9 million in 2008, spokeswoman Cynthia Michener said, sometimes paying the full amount demanded and sometimes not. The insurer paid some of the large charges because of state regulations mandating timely payments and to prevent doctors from sending patients big bills, Michener said.

The Hartford, Connecticut-based company is looking at claims in other states for anomalies, said chief of litigation J. Edward Neugebauer. Aetna is the third largest U.S. health insurer, with 18.5 million members.

$56,980 Consultation

The most detailed complaint is against Benyamin Hannallah, a cardiologist at Jersey City Medical Center. Hannallah charged $59,490 for a heart ultrasound in April 2010 and was paid $47,592, the suit says. Aetna reimburses in-network doctors $74 for the procedure at Jersey City hospitals, Michener said.

Hannallah billed Aetna $56,980 last July for a consultation with a patient who wasn’t critically ill, a hospital visit that typically takes 25 minutes, according to the suit. The insurer refused coverage, and said Hannallah had asked for $220 for this type of consultation in 2007.

In April 2010, Aetna said, Hannallah asked for $54,600 for a heart catheterization, up from $5,500 for the same procedure in 2007. When the insurer gave him $2,000 -- a sum it deemed “usual and customary” for the procedure -- Hannallah complained, and Aetna paid in full to prevent him from billing the patient for the remainder, Michener said.

The amount Hannallah requested for heart ultrasounds quadrupled between 2009 and 2010, and his price for cardiac- stress tests rose more than tenfold to $15,850 between 2008 and 2010, Aetna’s suit claims.

Healthy Profits

For an electrocardiogram, Aetna said it paid him $5,500 in 2010, up from $800 in 2008. The in-network fee listed on Aetna’s website for EKGs in Jersey City is $23.

Aetna said it paid Hannallah a total of $3.2 million in 2008 and 2009, up from $529,503 in the prior two-year period.

Robert Conroy, Hannallah’s lawyer in Bridgewater, New Jersey, said the fees in Aetna’s complaint are “false and/or misleading.” Some charges cited were pre-approved by the insurer, and some were negotiated between Hannallah and a third party representing Aetna, Conroy said.

Conroy said comparisons with some earlier rates are unfair because they represent fees when his client was an in-network doctor. Some of Hannallah’s patients or their employers paid higher insurance premiums for the right to use out-of-network doctors, Conroy said.

Aetna, which collects more than enough premium and administrative revenue to earn healthy profits, is suing because it wants to make even more money, Conroy said. “How much did Aetna pay its CEO last year?” he asked. “How many lives did he save while feathering his nests?”

‘Unfounded’ Countersuit

Aetna’s net income rose 38 percent in 2010, to $1.77 billion, or $4.18 a share. Its revenue for the year fell 2 percent, to $34 billion. The stock closed yesterday at $35.49, up 6 cents, in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Mark Rabson, a spokesman for Jersey City Medical Center, said it has “no knowledge” of what private physicians charge. He said Hannallah is credentialed with several area hospitals.

In its suit against Deepak Srinivasan, a cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, the company claims he raised his fee for heart catheterizations to $18,720 from $3,000 between 2006 and 2007. Srinivasan’s income from Aetna rose to $2.5 million in 2008 from $155,310 in 2006, the suit says.

Srinivasan filed a countersuit alleging that Aetna, by not paying him what it owes, violated U.S. and state laws governing group health plans and committed mail and wire fraud in its reimbursement practices. Aetna’s Michener called Srinivasan’s counterclaim “unfounded.”

Caesarean Charge

“Our client is livid,” said George Frino, an attorney in Teaneck, New Jersey, who represents Srinivasan. He said Srinivasan worked for a practice in 2006 that controlled his billings and that Aetna agreed to his fee schedule as a sole practitioner in 2007.

“He can’t comprehend how, after a four-year period without any complaints by Aetna, he gets served with this complaint -- weeks after they paid him a five-figure check.”

Another defendant at the Hackensack hospital, obstetrician- gynecologist Waleed Abdelghani, increased his charge for a Caesarean-section delivery to $30,000 in 2009 from $3,000 in 2008, the suit alleges. Aetna paid his full $30,000 fee “numerous” times in 2009, said Michener, the company spokeswoman. In-network doctors in the area receive $2,655 for the operation, according to the insurer’s website.

Abdelghani earned $76,173 from Aetna in 2007, $136,632 in 2008, $1.4 million in 2009 and $5.1 million in 2010, according to the company.

‘No Merit’

The defendant’s attorney, Charles Gormally of Roseland, New Jersey, disputed Aetna’s figures and said the insurer paid Abdelghani’s practice a total of $5.8 million over a three-year period. The group billed Aetna nearly $13 million over the three years, with some procedures not reimbursed at all, he said.

Gormally said many of the bills cited in the suit were paid after Aetna vetted them with an independent claims adjudicator.

The allegations don’t take into account the economic factors that force out-of-network doctors to demand higher fees, such as the absence of referrals that in-network doctors get from insurers, Gormally said. A spokeswoman for the Hackensack hospital, Nancy Radwin, declined to comment.

Another defendant, Magdy Wahba, an internal medicine specialist at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson and St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic, raised his fee for 30 to 74 minutes of service to critically-ill hospital patients to $9,000 in 2008 from $500 in 2007, the suit claims. Medicare pays $236 for the same type of consultation, according to the AMA website.

For a half-hour consultation with a non-critically ill patient, Wahba charged $6,000 in 2008, up from $250 in 2007, the suit says. The insurer said its total payments to Wahba grew to $3.8 million in 2009 from $309,446 in 2008.

Wahba’s attorney, Vafa Sarmasti of Fairfield, New Jersey, said Aetna’s claims “have no merit from a legal and factual standpoint” and that Aetna’s reimbursements to Wahba were based on “fair, usual and customary rates” determined by Aetna, not Wahba. Spokeswomen Vanessa Warner of St. Mary’s and Liz Asani of St. Joseph’s declined to comment.