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The Potential Power of Organized People
December 12, 2009 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Amid the financial headlines (about new banking reforms, more bank failures, the need for more lending by the fat-cats, the question of whether a European-style bonus-tax might be possible here, and the shrinking of the middle class), on PBS yesterday Bill Moyers wondered, in an in-depth segment (with organizers from here and here), whether a new wave of populist economic activism is perhaps, despite all odds, beginning to make a dent after all.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 (31 comments total)

 
I am going to go with "no".
posted by procrastination at 7:18 PM on December 12, 2009


Oops, wrong link above, but no none-the-less. Not until the economic team turns over after the next financial crisis.
posted by procrastination at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2009


Uh...I'm gonna go with Bill Moyers over Matt Taibbi on this one.

(And on everything else, too.)

The keyword is "dent": The activism isn't getting full penetration, but it's having some demonstrable effect, which is worth the effort.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:40 PM on December 12, 2009


Taibbi didn't say that economic populism isn't making a dent. That's not what the article said all.
posted by delmoi at 7:48 PM on December 12, 2009


What the Taibbi article said, in my mind, is that the bankers are still essentially running the portion of the government dedicated to their oversight. I don't see that there are any real changes being made to improve things. We will see once decent analysis of the financial reform bill that is eventually agreed on by the Senate passes, but I am not holding my breath.
posted by procrastination at 8:07 PM on December 12, 2009


What the Taibbi article said, in my mind, is that the bankers are still essentially running the portion of the government dedicated to their oversight.

In the executive branch, whereas the populists are having an effect in congress.
posted by delmoi at 8:14 PM on December 12, 2009



Short answer: No.

Longer, in depth analysis: No fucking way.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:14 PM on December 12, 2009


What the Taibbi article said, in my mind, is that the bankers are still essentially running the portion of the government dedicated to their oversight.

Who are "the bankers?" The problem with these guilt-by-association arguments is that they fail to really address the problems. With Taibbi, there's no real "We need to pass X" which is exactly what is needed. People need to invest in the process, in figuring out what it is they want. Just ranting never works.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:16 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The problem with these guilt-by-association arguments

This may surprise you, but I tend to agree with you. In fact, part of the reason I posted this to begin with was to get away from the lingering anti-Obama/pro-Obama sentiment of the recent Taibbi thread. However, it's also worth pointing out (see my fourth link, about Obama's 60 Minutes interview tomorrow, in which he says he didn't run for office to help 'Fat Cat Bankers') that even the President is adopting some of this populist rhetoric. The question you raise therefore also needs to be directed at him, since we all know we can't just expect to shame Wall Street into behaving ethically.

I don't know if Moyers' tentative optimism about achieving reform is warranted or not (ultimately only time will tell, and even my last link notes that critics call the move [of Goldman replacing some bonuses with stock] window dressing instead of real reform), and while I'm glad Taibbi is raising alarm bells, I'm also--unlike him--not ready to throw in the towel yet. In short, I'm trying to find some reason to hope that reforming Wall Street is still a viable possibility.

Related: Did Obama's Inner Circle (and Rep. Melissa Bean) Kill Financial Reform?
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 9:23 PM on December 12, 2009


Who are "the bankers?"

The financial services industry. You know, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman's, Morgan Stanley, B of A, etc.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:31 PM on December 12, 2009


The question you raise therefore also needs to be directed at him, since we all know we can't just expect to shame Wall Street into behaving ethically.

First, I don't think the problem this time had anything to do with "ethics." It was a lack of regulation and stupidity. Frankly, the people who lost the most were the bankers. But the regulations weren't strong enough.

But even looking at the Alternet article, there's nothing there. These rich people gave money. OK. There's an allegation that financial reform was "killed." but the House just passed that bill. If you have a specific problem with that bill, let's hear it. But just look at the title of the article. "Did Obama's Inner Circle Kill Financial Reform." Its in the fucking subjunctive. They can't even make any statements. They literally list donors. That's it. I can't stand that. If you think the derivatives reform isn't strong enough, tell me that and why it is true. If you think that the new consumer financial protection agency lacks powers X Y and Z let me know. But you aren't moving the ball forward by screaming "bankers gave money!" Just relying on a hunch that things are going wrong because Arianna Huffington said so isn't enough.

The financial services industry. You know, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman's, Morgan Stanley, B of A, etc.

Please provide a list of the individuals who have done wrong and what they've done wrong in regards to the proposals for financial services reform.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:58 PM on December 12, 2009


The Alternet article doesn't even say what the ATM and lending issues are. I can't tell what the problem is. It could be there but they don't tell you.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:00 PM on December 12, 2009


With Taibbi, there's no real "We need to pass X" which is exactly what is needed.

Oh that's bullshit. Taibbi talks a lot about the legislative process and the bills that are currently being written. For example, from the article:
The push for reform seemed to get off to a promising start. In the House, the charge was led by Rep. Barney Frank, the outspoken chair of the House Financial Services Committee, who emerged during last year's Bush bailouts as a sharp-tongued critic of Wall Street. Back when Obama was still a senator, he and Frank even worked together to introduce a populist bill targeting executive compensation. Last spring, with the economy shattered, Frank began to hold hearings on a host of reforms, crafted with significant input from the White House, that initially contained some very good elements. There were measures to curb abusive credit-card lending, prevent banks from charging excessive fees, force publicly traded firms to conduct meaningful risk assessment and allow shareholders to vote on executive compensation. There were even measures to crack down on risky derivatives and to bar firms like AIG from picking their own regulators.

Then the committee went to work — and the loopholes started to appear.

The most notable of these came in the proposal to regulate derivatives like credit-default swaps. Even Gary Gensler, the former Goldmanite whom Obama put in charge of commodities regulation, was pushing to make these normally obscure investments more transparent, enabling regulators and investors to identify speculative bubbles sooner. But in August, a month after Gensler came out in favor of reform, Geithner slapped him down by issuing a 115-page paper called "Improvements to Regulation of Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets" that called for a series of exemptions for "end users" — i.e., almost all of the clients who buy derivatives from banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Even more stunning, Frank's bill included a blanket exception to the rules for currency swaps traded on foreign exchanges — the very instruments that had triggered the Long-Term Capital Management meltdown in the late 1990s.
How the hell can you make a "We need to pass X" when X is still being written, and the final product will have a huge impact on it's effectiveness. Taibbi is clearly advocating for specific structural reforms, including requiring that all CDS contracts be standardized and be traded on exchanges. (Hardly radical seeming demand -- only that CDS deals be made in public rather then behind closed doors, which is already how most securities are traded)

And anyway how the hell can you make a "We need to pass X" argument without even informing people about what's going on not all advocacy requires specific calls to action. Shining light on corrupt practices can be helpful for getting the ball rolling.

That's such a ridiculous charge.

Who are "the bankers?"

Well, obviously the people in government most closely associated with "the bankers" would be Geithner, Summers, and Bernanke, plus underguys like Neel Kashkari (who just left for a plum job at PIMCO after helping them get a super-plum deal on 'toxic' assets). Or Adam Storch a 29 year old goldman sachs executive to be the COO of the SEC. Or the anyone of of the several people mentioned in this article. Now obviously you need some people who understand finance in these positions, but the real problem is the clique of Wallstreetophiles who occupy the top economic decision making stratum.
posted by delmoi at 10:08 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please provide a list of the individuals who have done wrong and what they've done wrong in regards to the proposals for financial services reform.

Hey, please provide a list of the individuals who have done wrong in Afghanistan, and tell us what it is they've done and why we should be over there. Thanks.
posted by delmoi at 10:10 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


the people who lost the most were the bankers.

What about the people who've lost their jobs and their homes? Last I checked the bankers were saved by TARP from going under, and they have seen their culture of big bonuses preserved.

If you have a specific problem with that bill, let's hear it.

I'm not sure why you're so defensive: all the mainstream reporting on this bill has pointed out how, while the bill may be a good first step, it may have been compromised somewhat by Rep. Bean.

Consider this:

Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG's Consumer Program Director, said the bill is "a major step" and includes a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

However, Mierzwinski warned, "despite the collapse of our economy due to a financial regulatory system that failed," the bill still faces "a gauntlet of special-interest lobbyists looking for exceptions and loopholes."

"We oppose all weakening amendments to the CFPA and other Wall Street reforms. The worst CFPA proposal is an anticipated amendment to preempt the states from taking stronger actions, thereby eliminating the bill's provision reinstating federal law as a floor not ceiling of protection. An amendment to eliminate the CFPA's authority to ban forced arbitration in consumer contracts is also expected."


And also this: Bean, The Banks, And Weakened Consumer Protection

And also this: The Wall Street Money Ties That Lead to Loopholes
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:16 PM on December 12, 2009


Please provide a list of the individuals who have done wrong and what they've done wrong in regards to the proposals for financial services reform.

Whom do you think is fighting tooth and nail against financial reform? Are you joking? When we're talking about decreasing 30-1 leverage for banks/loan originators and we meet resistance, who is providing the resistance? Consumer groups? Come on. Look at the K-street lobbyists and get back to me. I didn't think anyone was not informed of this, so forgive my lack of patience, but, honestly, do your own research here. It's not like it's hard to find.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:34 PM on December 12, 2009


You know, when TARP was rolled out, we got a lot of, "That's not doing anything. We need to emphasize job creation and financial reforms!" from Wall St and their beneficiaries. Well, now we're doing that. The same CNBC/Wall St crowd is now objecting to it on purely specious grounds, but they are the propaganda wing for the financial sector, so internal consistency is not a priority. If you want to know, it starts with people like Paulson and Geithner having gigantic influence and extends to the shills like Rick Santelli, Larry Kudlow and Art Cashin bloviating about how little they care for the "losers" who lost their jobs and homes and what sort of help they might need, because look at the S&P this week! Everything's fine! is their message, and it's not improvised.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:46 PM on December 12, 2009


This thread is about Moyers. You might want to start by watching the show. There is a thread for Taibbi over here.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:08 AM on December 13, 2009


Please provide a list of the individuals who have done wrong
Here's a start: - The included are all guilty of lack of oversight for the public good and corporate greed.
posted by adamvasco at 1:21 AM on December 13, 2009


There is a thread for Taibbi over here.

I'm not much of a fan of Taibbi, though I understand where he's coming from. Moyers is far better. If your comment was directed at me, I was answering a question from Ironmouth, and I have watched the show.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:34 AM on December 13, 2009


Frankly, the people who lost the most were the bankers.

Please provide a list etc..
posted by GeorgeBickham at 5:02 AM on December 13, 2009


the question of whether a European-style bonus-tax might be possible here,

The problem is that a European-style bonus-tax is not even really possible in Europe. So there's a tax on bonuses over a certain amount to "bankers". It's either one-time, in which case it does nothing whatsoever to change the risk-taking culture; or it's permanent in which case it's totally unenforceable. Take this statement for instance:

The financial services industry. You know, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman's, Morgan Stanley, B of A, etc.


There are three investment banks on that list, B of A is a retail bank, and neither AIG nor its financial products division were banks. AIG did by far the most damage and screwed up the worst, and yet this bonus tax wouldn't apply to them.

You know who else it wouldn't apply to?
Employees of private equity & hedge funds
Employees of fund management units and broker dealers held separately from their bank parent
Independent contractors working for banks (of which I suspect there will soon be rather more...)


What about the people who've lost their jobs and their homes? Last I checked the bankers were saved by TARP from going under, and they have seen their culture of big bonuses preserved.


Which bankers. There have been proportionately more job losses in the financial services sector than in any other. The banks were saved by TARP, some of them anyway. If you were a long-time Lehman hand you're pretty fucked of course.

Here's a start: - The included are all guilty of lack of oversight for the public good and corporate greed.


Two of those boards fucked up enormously, but zero of them are guilty of not looking out for the public good. The place where they're supposed to do that is a few hundred miles to the south.
They have an obligation not to deliberately destabilise the system, but no-one really understood what exactly might happen if they behaved in the way they did.

Now I'm sure there'll be some blowhard who comes in a minute to assure me that *they*, prophet that they are, predicted the whole thing. These come in a number of categories:

1) Goldbugs. - I'm sympathetic to this, because bubbles come from easy money. They usually fail to offer a coherent alternative to fiat currency though. (Precious metal currency is retarded)

2) Agglutinators - Have got a list of things they don't like, all of which they are sure predicted the banking crisis. Example: "With all the jobs going offshore, Sarah Palin, and the cancellation of Dollhouse, who can be surprised when there is a banking liquidity crisis"

3) Ideologues - Finally, a vindication of my Trotskyite beliefs!

4) Confusing-the-part-for-the-whole: "I knew property prices couldn't keep going up in the US therefore I effectively predicted a global liquidity crisis and recession"
posted by atrazine at 8:00 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


whack-a-banker
posted by Anything at 8:01 AM on December 13, 2009


Atrazine - neat list. How would you categorize those who thought everything was fine?
posted by GeorgeBickham at 8:15 AM on December 13, 2009


Drug money saved banks in global crisis, claims UN advisor
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 8:35 AM on December 13, 2009


There are three investment banks on that list, B of A is a retail bank, and neither AIG nor its financial products division were banks. AIG did by far the most damage and screwed up the worst, and yet this bonus tax wouldn't apply to them.

AIG's financial services division was selling derivatives and operated as a 'financial services company'. Not traditional banking to be sure, but certainly something that falls under the rubric of "banking"
posted by delmoi at 8:43 AM on December 13, 2009


atrazine: What about guys like Noriel Roubini, who predicted exactly what happened, only slightly lesser in scale. He predicted a major regional bank would fail. We got IndyMac, Then Wells Fargo, then Wachovia. At the end, it looks like Citibank, BoA, etc would fail without intervention.
posted by delmoi at 6:45 PM on December 13, 2009


Oh, and Larry Summers has joined in the banker bashing:
White House economic adviser Larry Summers also voiced aggravation with Wall Street on Sunday. "Here is what I think they don't get…It was their irresponsible risk-taking in many cases that brought the economy to collapse," Mr. Summers, who chairs the National Economic Council, said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"And they don't get in some cases that they wouldn't be where they are today, and they certainly would not be paying the bonuses they are paying today, if their government hadn't taken extraordinary actions."

"For them to be complaining about serious regulation directed at making sure this never happens again is wrong. For $300 million to be spent on lobbyists trying to gut serious efforts at financial reform is not how this country should be operating," Mr. Summers said. "For firms that have benefited from taxpayer support to be complaining about the government burdening them is, frankly, a bit rich."
posted by delmoi at 6:46 PM on December 13, 2009


Summers also voiced aggravation with Wall Street on Sunday

Instead of aggravation, we need regulation. In other words, what I don't get is why Summers, Geithner, and Obama keep being quoted as chastising the banks for their behavior: this isn't Sunday School, and corporations don't care what people think--they only respond to laws and penalties. Whenever Summers, Geithner, or Obama chastises the banks, I always think: well, yeah, duh, but you're job isn't to chastise them and act surprised by their totally predictable behavior patterns, it's to be proactive and regulate the hell out of them.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 7:08 PM on December 13, 2009


your job, not you're
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 7:09 PM on December 13, 2009


Atrazine - neat list. How would you categorize those who thought everything was fine?
Oh, that was just a list of types of people who now claim that they'd predicted the crisis for years.


AIG's financial services division was selling derivatives and operated as a 'financial services company'. Not traditional banking to be sure, but certainly something that falls under the rubric of "banking"


Sure enough. The problem is that if they were still around they would be exempt from this bonus tax. Same thing with hedge funds.
I think that it might be better to simple add another tax band with a slightly higher marginal rate. This one-time bonus tax doesn't do anything but satisfy a self-destructive urge for vengeance. A permanent tax reform would raise the revenue base permanently.

Fair play to Roubini (and Taleb), they really do have a right to the claim that they anticipated that something like this might happen.
posted by atrazine at 10:36 PM on December 13, 2009


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