Wall Street

Senate Republicans should oppose Jack Lew

Jack Lew

At the end of last week, President Barack Obama nominated Jack Lew, who currently serves as White House Chief of State, to replace Timothy Geithner as the next Treasury Secretary. While he may eventually win confirmation, the White House and Lew may have a fight on their hands in the Senate:

Republicans say Jack Lew will have to answer for what they view as the president’s bare-knuckle tactics when Lew undergoes the Senate confirmation process for Treasury secretary. 
[…]
Republicans are frustrated that Obama has not put forth what they would consider a credible plan to reform entitlement programs. And they were angered when after the election he traveled to Pennsylvania and Virginia for campaign-style events to pressure Republicans to extend the middle-class tax cuts.

Senate GOP aides say Lew will be called to account for the White House’s tactics when he comes before the Senate Finance Committee.

“He’s coming to the Senate from the chief of staff’s role in the White House and this White House just points the finger at everyone else. It refuses to take the blame for the bad things that are happening. This is a White House that is overly political and not really interested in alternate points of view,” said a senior Senate GOP aide.

“He’s going to be facing a lot of questions related to his involvement in the White House. He’s the top dog over there. He’s responsible for the direction,” the aide said. “It’s a shame the president would send along such a divisive figure.”

Occupy Wall Street frustrations are understood, “solutions” are dead wrong

For the last few weeks, protesters have camped out in New York City to express their grievances with Wall Street. The complaints are somewhat familiar and to some extent, I can understand where they’re coming from. They are upset with what they see as government colluding with corporations for taxpayer-funded bailouts during very tough economics times.

The frustration with corporatism is understandable, libertarians and free market conservatives have expressed the same sentiment for years only to take a back seat to the idea that what’s “good for business” is good policy. But as we’ve come to learn, so-called “pro-business” policies aren’t always a good deal for taxpayers. And by that I mean that we truly want a level playing field, but not through excessive taxation or regulation. Rather, keeping government out of the business of picking winners and losers.

But some members of the nascent “Occupy Wall Street” have expressed demands (note that these demands are unofficial), which for all of their supposed distrust of government, these guys have a very utopian idea of what government should be — likely enough to make Karl Marx and Che Guevara proud. Nevermind that they would be economic suicide.

Among the suggested demands for the movement are (with my comments next to them):

America’s Greatness Lies in Knowledge Diffused

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” - Thomas Jefferson, 1816, Letter to Thomas Yancey

Our nation, for several years now, has been in extended crisis mode. By the end of the Bush administration, we’d reached a point of complacency. We had wars raging on two fronts, but rather than being something the entire nation was focused on and engaged in, it was little more than partisan fodder to be used against Bush and the Republicans in the newspapers and on the nightly news (as evidenced by the fact that the constant front-page stories of soldier death counts miraculously disappeared once Obama took office).

Then came the financial collapse, which effectively ended John McCain’s chances at the presidency and ushered in Barack Obama, a political neophyte who campaigned not on specific policy positions and political philosophies, but on his claim to being “not Bush”, ushering in an era of “hope and change”. Unfortunately, while Obama has certainly achieved “change”, in doing so he has all but destroyed hope in America, at least until he leaves office.

These past two weeks we’ve seen the stock market rising and falling more often than a Kennedy after a night of partying. The dollar continues to be weakened, America’s credit rating is downgraded for the first time in history, unemployment remains high, and the prospects for improvement seem bleak in the short term. We are largely dependent on our enemies for our energy consumption, mainly because we refuse to access the vast reserves of energy we have on our own soil and in the oceans surrounding us. The waves of bad news crashing over us seem endless right now.

It Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Is’ Is

Understanding the underlying meaning of a politician’s words is an art. It is a skill that must be cultivated, because all too often the words they speak are nothing more than deceptive marketing. You have the high-energy sales pitch…and thirty seconds of fine print read at high speed. Most of the time, the loud claims are completely negated by the fine print.

Nowhere is this deceptive nuance more prevalent than when politicians talk about money. To those of us in the real world, we go out and work hard to earn money to provide for the needs of ourselves and our families. We have gross earnings, and then we have “take-home pay”, which is the gross earnings minus the litany of state and federal taxes, insurance premiums, etc. If we take a pay cut, it means that our gross earnings are reduced from the previous level. This is how normal people speak.

The political world has its own Orwellian lexicon, where nothing means what it sounds like it means. Before we can even address the lexicon though, we have to address the larger underlying problem; namely, the philosophical differences between government and the average citizen. Since I believe the words of the Declaration and the Constitution, which says that I am a son of my Creator, endowed with unalienable rights, and that government derives its powers from the consent of the governed, I naturally believe that the fruits of my labor belong to me and me alone. As a citizen, I have agreed to take a portion of my earnings and contribute it to the funding of the cost of government, which is there, in theory, to protect my rights.

A libertarian view against the banks

There has been much ado over bailouts and socialism, Wall Street and Main Street, greedy bankers and noble capitalists, and a myriad of other related catchphrases and ideological positions when it comes to a discussion of the state of our financial system over the last year and a half. The debate rages on as today former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker testified before the Senate Banking Committee and with Barack Obama’s recent call for a new tax on banks. Volcker has suggested a ban on proprietary trading for certain banks. This is a modified reinstatement of Glass-Steagall which served to separate standard commercial banking from hedge fund like behavior.

Lately, the conservative mainstream has taken to siding against such reforms. Typical free market rhetoric has led the way. It’s been suggested that a ban on prop trading would over-regulate the banks and inhibit growth. We also hear the usual arguments against corporate taxes which state that it such policies only hurt the end consumer. I’d like to offer an alternative point of view on this subject that I think libertarians (and Libertarians) should consider supporting. I’ll present my logic one point at a time.

1. Our System Encourages “Too Big To Fail”

Greenspan, The Fallen God

For years liberals, conservatives, independents, DC, Main Street and Wall Street seemingly defied all normality and not only embraced, but nearly worshiped the same individual, Alan Greenspan. After rising in 1987 to the position of Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the most powerful financial position in the world, he presided over the most sustained period of economic growth in the history of America. He rode the wave of private sector technological achievements that created abnormally high productivity growth. To many it was his greatness that brought about the increase in income, increase in homeownership, increase in credit, increase in all things material — while still maintaining price stability.

Bailout “Fails” so Paulson Wants to Expand It

Ever since the “billionaire bailout” of Wall Street passed nearly two weeks ago, the market has signaled its displeasure in the goverment’s decision to shore up the failing system. The bailout passed on a Friday and the following week the Dow had its worse week in history. This created an environment where the Administration took hits for their “failed plan”- a plan that had not even been put into practice. But since markets look forward, expectations of the effects of the plan helped bring about the miserable week on Wall Street.

Putting the Bailout in Perspective

From Kevin Drum & Propublica - A visual representation of the bailouts adjusted for inflation.

Big money is betting on Hillary Clinton in 2016

Hillary Clinton

You know, for all the whining and complaining Democrats do over “big money” in politics, they sure do love to cash those checks when donors write them. In fact, during the 2014 election cycle, Democrats pretty much stayed competitive with Republicans overall, but in hotly-contested Senate races like North Carolina and Virginia, the Democrats far-and-away outspent the Republicans.

Even The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart took notice of the Democrats’ love of campaign money during this cycle.

So it’s really not surprising when billionaires like Warren Buffett write $25,000 checks to Democratic political action committees. According to Bloomberg Politics writer Lisa Lerer:

Eric Cantor is rewarded by Wall Street cronies: Ex-House leader lands a cushy new job at an investment bank

Don’t you shed a tear for Eric Cantor. The recently defeated and now retired ex-House Majority Leader has, as predicted, landed what sounds like a pretty sweet gig working for Moelis & Company, a Wall Street investment firm:

“Eric has proven himself to be a pro-business advocate and one who will enhance our boardroom discussions with CEOs and senior management as we help them navigate their most important strategic decisions,” the firm’s founder, Ken Moelis said in a statement.

Cantor is signing on with the boutique investment bank as a vice chairman and managing director, the company said. He will also be elected to its board of directors. The firm said Cantor will “provide strategic counsel to the firm’s corporate and institutional clients on key issues. He will play a leading role in client development and advise clients on strategic matters.”


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