Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* SECRETS AND LIES OF THE BAILOUT
By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
It has been four long winters since the federal government, in the hulking, shaven-skulled, Alien Nation-esque form of then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, committed $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue Wall Street from its own chicanery and greed. To listen to the bankers and their allies in Washington tell it, you’d think the bailout was the best thing to hit the American economy since the invention of the assembly line. Not only did it prevent another Great Depression, we’ve been told, but the money has all been paid back, and the government even made a profit. No harm, no foul – right?
It was all a lie – one of the biggest and most elaborate falsehoods ever sold to the American people. We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn. […]
* IS THE CONSTITUTION STILL RELEVANT?
By Robert Parry, OpEdNews
The U.S. Constitution has become part of today’s political battlefield, with the Right claiming to be its true defender and the Left questioning why the old parchment should undercut democratic choices in the modern age. But neither side seems very interested in what the document actually did.
There are two major schools of thought about the U.S. Constitution. One from the Left argues that it’s an outdated structure that should not be allowed to inhibit actions necessary to meet the needs of a modern society. And one from the Right, that only a “strict constructionist” reading of the Constitution and respect for the Framers’ “original intent” should be allowed.
But the problem with these two views is that neither is logically consistent or honest. The Left, for instance, embraces important constitutional liberties, such as habeas corpus, freedom of speech, and prohibitions against “cruel and unusual punishments” and unreasonable searches and seizures — regardless of the exigencies of the moment.
Yet, the Left disdains much of the Constitution for its anti-democratic and even immoral compromises, which enabled the new governing document to emerge from the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and narrowly win ratification in 1788. Not only did the Constitution countenance slavery, it undercut democracy by giving two senators to each state regardless of population (and originally having them appointed by state legislatures, not elected by the people).
Why, ask many on the Left, should modern American society be restricted by the judgments of a small group of propertied white men — many of them slaveholders — who died two centuries ago? Why should old compromises, which now seem ridiculously quaint and wrongheaded, be allowed to distort and constrain democratic judgments in 2013?
As Georgetown University constitutional law professor Louis Michael Seidman wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed, much of the fault behind today’s gridlock in Washington can be traced to the “archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions” of the U.S. Constitution. He added:
“Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.” […]
* BORROWING VS. MINTING, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?
By wigwam, FireDogLake
Article 1 Section 8 allows the government to acquire money to pay its bills in three ways: taxtion [Clause 1], borrowing [Clause 2], and coining of money [Clause 5]. And 31USC5112(k) allows the Treasury to mint arbitrarily coins of any denominations. For the past 220 years since the founding of the Treasury, the U.S. has covered its tax deficits by a combination of borrowing and minting, e.g., in 2011 the ratio was about 100 to 1. But, we are spending $250 billion per year in interest on our debt, so why not cover the entire deficit by minting trillion-dollar coins? Per Paul Krugman:
… at least as I understand it, the letter of the law [31USC5112(k)] would allow Treasury to stamp out a platinum coin, say it’s worth a trillion dollars, and deposit it at the Fed — thereby avoiding the need to issue debt [borrow money].
In reality, to pursue the thought further, the coin really would be as much a Federal debt as the T-bills the Fed owns, since eventually Treasury would want to buy it back. So this is all a gimmick — but since the debt ceiling itself is crazy, allowing Congress to tell the president to spend money then tell him that he can’t raise the money he’s supposed to spend, there’s a pretty good case for using whatever gimmicks come to hand.
But leaving the debt ceiling on one side, isn’t it true that since spending can currently be financed by Fed money printing, we shouldn’t care at all about the notional debt owed to the Fed? Alas, no.
It’s true that printing money isn’t at all inflationary under current conditions — that is, with the economy depressed and interest rates up against the zero lower bound. But eventually these conditions will end. At that point, to prevent a sharp rise in inflation the Fed will want to pull back much of the monetary base it created in response to the crisis, which means selling off the Federal debt it bought. So even though right now that debt is just a claim by one more or less governmental agency on another governmental agency, it will eventually turn into debt held by the public. […]
* BY ANY MEASURE, THE U.S. IS THE LARGEST SPONSOR OF TERROR
Source: Washington’s Blog
Preface: As a patriotic American – I was born here, lived here all of my life, and love this country – I want the best for the U.S.
Lawless actions are tearing my country apart. I want my country to regain its vision, strength and moral compass. Thomas Jefferson said that “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”. I criticize my country because I know we are better than this … and that if enough people know how far we have fallen, we can start to pull ourselves back and reclaim our greatness.
Many Countries Sponsor Terror … But America Is the Worst
The director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan – Lt. General William Odom said:
By any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ‘78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation. […]
* TERRORISM WITH A “HUMAN FACE”: THE HISTORY OF AMERICA’S DEATH SQUADS
By Prof. Michel Chossdovsky, Global Research
The recruitment of death squads is part of a well established US military-intelligence agenda. There is a long and gruesome US history of covert funding and support of terror brigades and targeted assassinations going back to the Vietnam war.
As government forces continue to confront the self-proclaimed “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), the historical roots of the West’s covert war on Syria –which has resulted in countless atrocities– must be fully revealed.
From the outset in March 2011, the US and its allies have supported the formation of death squads and the incursion of terrorist brigades in a carefully planned undertaking.
The recruitment and training of terror brigades in both Iraq and Syria was modeled on the “Salvador Option”, a “terrorist model” of mass killings by US sponsored death squads in Central America. It was first applied in El Salvador, in the heyday of resistance against the military dictatorship, resulting in an estimated 75,000 deaths.
The formation of death squads in Syria builds upon the history and experience of US sponsored terror brigades in Iraq, under the Pentagon’s “counterinsurgency” program. […]
* FRANCE CHOOSES THE PATH OF AUSTERITY
By Salim Lamrani, Voltaire.net
Despite the election of socialist François Hollande to the presidency of the Republic, France, far from breaking with the neoliberal model that has led much of Europe toward disaster, has chosen the path of austerity.
The austerity policies advocated by the European Union – promoted primarily by Germany’s Angela Merkel – the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank have led to deadlock. They are politically unpopular, economically inefficient and socially disastrous. Wherever they have been implemented, whether in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal or Spain – without a single exception – they have been unsuccessful, engendering an increase in poverty, unemployment, and public indebtedness as well as leading to the dismantling of the welfare state through the destruction of public services and a drastic lowering of state revenues.
François Hollande’s election to the presidency of the Republic in May 2012 sparked some hope among French citizens for an alternative to austerity policies. But rather than significantly increasing the minimum wage and public investment – measures that would have boosted economic growth – the government of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault adopted the “Pact for competitiveness” recommended by the Gallois report . This is a pact that has shown itself slavishly devoted to policies that have already demonstrated their ineffectiveness across Europe. […]
* GREEK TAX SCANDAL DISTRACTS FROM A COLLECTION SHORTFALL
By Liz Alderman and Rachel Donadio, NYTimes
The tax scandal that reignited in Greece over the holidays had all the makings of a grade-B drama. A former finance minister, George Papaconstantinou, was accused of scrubbing his relatives’ names from a CD containing the identities of thousands of possible Greek tax dodgers. Within hours, his chief political rival tossed him from their party.
Mr. Papaconstantinou, in turn, hinted darkly that he was the victim of a plot masking malfeasance at higher levels.
While the firestorm may have made for political theater of a sort, it has diverted attention from a much bigger problem: Greece, its foreign lenders say, has fallen woefully short of its tax collection targets and is still not moving hard enough to tackle widespread tax evasion — long tolerated, particularly among the country’s richest citizens.
Greek officials agreed to the targets as part of an international lending pact last year, but there is no penalty for missing them. In recent weeks, however, two reports by Greece’s foreign lenders have found that Athens pulled in less than half of the additional tax income that it expected last year and performed fewer than half of the expected audits. […]