Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

March 22, 2009


Robert Reich, Salon - The Wall Street bailout is starting to look like the most expensive tax-supported fiasco in history. The problem for the Obama administration is that this bailout is near the very center of the president 's economic recovery program. It's not possible for the economy to bounce back until credit markets are working again. Yet even though the bailout so far is a bust, Geithner still hasn't decided -- or told the public -- how he's going to use the remaining $300 billion of bailout money differently.

The president cannot afford to lose the public's confidence that his administration is a careful steward of the public's money. The public was willing to go along with a large stimulus package. But it won't go along with a second stimulus, and certainly not another TARP. And until the public feels confident that its money isn't being thrown down a rat hole, it may balk at other ambitious undertakings such as healthcare or education or the environment.

Before it can clean up Wall Street or do much of anything else, the administration has to clean up the way it's been trying to clean up Wall Street.

Frank Rich, NY Times - In general, it's hard to imagine taxpayers shelling out billions for a second bank bailout unless there's a full accounting of every dime of the first. . .

Why has there been so little transparency and so much evasiveness so far? The answer, I fear, is that too many of the administration's officials are too marinated in the insiders' culture to police it, reform it or own up to their own past complicity with it.

The "dirty little secret,"
Obama told Leno, i
s that "most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal." An even dirtier secret is that a prime mover in keeping that stuff legal was Summers, who helped torpedo the regulation of derivatives while in the Clinton administration. . .

Given that Summers worked for a secretive hedge fund, D. E. Shaw, after he was pushed out of Harvard's presidency at the bubble's height, you have to wonder how he can now sell the administration's plan for buying up toxic assets with the help of hedge funds. It will look like another giveaway to his own insiders' club. As for Geithner, people might take him more seriously if he gave a credible account of why, while at the New York Fed, he and the Goldman alumnus Hank Paulson let Lehman Brothers fail but saved the Goldman-trading ally A.I.G.

Paul Rosenberg, Open Left - It's not a question of doing Wall Street's bidding, because they won't, necessarily. Rather, it's a question of thinking Wall Street's thoughts, of having absorbed them by osmosis for so long, and through so many channels that even when they seek to oppose Wall Street on some issue or another, the form it takes is virtually indistinguishable from agreement to anyone who's not an insider themselves.

Washington Post
- Maryland could become the first state in the country to make it illegal for credit card companies to retroactively change their interest rates, a practice that can force people who owe money further into debt. The legislation passed the House of Delegates, and its prospects in the state Senate probably will be boosted by a national mood that has turned powerfully against banks and in favor of struggling consumers. The bill would prohibit card companies that change their rates from applying the new rate to debt a consumer already has incurred. Card companies often do that now when a computer detects that a customer has missed a payment on a different card or loan. Even if the customer decides the new rate is too high and cancels the card, the new rate can be applied to debt the customer already has. Federal regulations adopted in January would establish similar protections nationwide in July 2010. But if the Maryland bill passes, it would go into effect this summer, giving state consumers the safeguards a year early.

Rufus and Kristan Lawson, Scavenger's Manifesto: Why Dumpster Diving Can Save You from Going Off the Deep End - Two thousand years ago, half the world's population survived by hunting and gathering. With the rise of civilization, old-fashioned hunting and gathering became virtually obsolete. But all modern-day scavengers are hunter-gatherers. Define hunter-gathering as foraging, taking what comes. Define it as sublimating choice to the bigger thrill of chance. It translates to saving money and potentially working less. It translates to dodging whatever market sector some genius thinks you belong to. Modern scavenging means wearing, using and eating castoff goods from countless strangers, thus you cannot be predicted, tracked, deciphered. You are the mystery. With lighthouse eyes, you find furniture, fashions, art, appliances, jewelry, food. You scavenge seeds. Sometimes you do not know what they are when you plant them, and find out only when plants rise: My garden grows parsley, purple tomatillos, three kinds of bok choy. You never know. . . Some scavenge for fun. Some scavenge to save. Money. The world. Their souls. While consumers around us drown in debt, we liberate ourselves with every cent we save while liberating would-be trash.


Post a Comment

<< Home