Tomgram: The End of a Subprime Administration

November 6, 2008

November 2, 2008
Tomgram: The End of a Subprime Administration

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: As Election 2008 approaches, this seems like an appropriate time to look back, but also to say goodbye to all that. Yes, we have almost three months of the Bush administration to go; yes, so much that George W. did will be with us for an eternity. Still, the moment needs to be marked. I’ve done my best below. For new TomDispatch readers, in particular, let me suggest another way to mark this boundary moment: pick up a copy of The World According to TomDispatch: America in a New Age of Empire. It will bring you up to speed on this site, remind you of just what we’ve gone through since September 11, 2001, and offer you a sense of the ways in which our world has been changed that no new administration will be capable of ignoring. Tom]

Foreclosed

The George W. Bush Story

By Tom Engelhardt

They may have been the most disastrous dreamers, the most reckless gamblers, and the most vigorous imperial hucksters and grifters in our history. Selling was their passion. And they were classic American salesmen — if you’re talking about underwater land in Florida, or the Brooklyn Bridge, or three-card monte, or bizarre visions of Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles armed with chemical and biological weaponry let loose over the U.S., or Saddam Hussein’s mushroom clouds rising over American cities, or a full-scale reordering of the Middle East to our taste, or simply eternal global dominance.

When historians look back, it will be far clearer that the “commander-in-chief” of a “wartime” country and his top officials were focused, first and foremost, not on the shifting “central theaters” of the Global War on Terror, but on the theater that mattered most to them — the “home front” where they spent inordinate amounts of time selling the American people a bill of goods. Of his timing in ramping up a campaign to invade Iraq in September 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card infamously explained: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

Indeed.

From a White House where “victory strategies” meant purely for domestic consumption poured out, to the Pentagon where bevies of generals, admirals, and other high officers were constantly being mustered, not to lead armies but to lead public opinion, their selling focus was total. They were always releasing “new product.”

And don’t forget their own set of soaring inside-the-Beltway fantasies. After all, if a salesman is going to sell you some defective product, it always helps if he can sell himself on it first. And on this score, they were world champs.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Heather Wokusch: Bush Exits with a Bang: Toxic Bailout and Two More Wars?

September 26, 2008

It’s good to hear back from my American friend, progressive writer, author, political commentator and blogger, Heather Wokusch.  Check out her two short videos and following links:

I’ve been on a short break from blogging, but recent events have gotten me riled up! If you have strong opinions about the Bush administration’s ‘toxic debt’ bailout and/or destabilization of Pakistan and Iran, then check out the ten-minute video I made called ‘Bush Exits with a Bang: Toxic Bailout and Two More Wars?’ here:

Bush Exits with a Bang: Toxic Bailout and Two More Wars?

The video provides background and context into these dangerous developments, as well as ideas for taking action.

I hope to be back to blogging on a regular basis soon, but for now, check out:
Bush Exits with a Bang: Toxic Bailout and Two More Wars?

Links for sources cited in the video:

Bailout:
Crisis talks over $700B ‘toxic debt’ rescue plan
Bush: “The American people have got to know that I made this decision along with a lot of experts because it was necessary to protect them.”

Pakistan:
Washington is Risking War with Pakistan

The American War Moves to Pakistan

Iran:
Preparing The Battlefield July 07, 2008

Dutch intel: US to strike Iran in coming weeks September 1, 08

Israel asks U.S. for arms, air corridor to attack Iran September 11, 08

U.S. to sell IAF smart bombs for heavily fortified targets September 14, 08

Bush could still attack Iran September 17 08


US Bailout Protests Today, September 25th!

September 25, 2008

Protest the Bailout Today
There are more than 200 events planned coast to coast for today, September 25, protesting the Bush Administration’s proposed bailout.  Find an event near you and contact your elected reps and implore them to reject a plan that bails out Wall Street but not Main Street.


Mike Whitney: Mushroom Cloud over Wall Street

September 23, 2008

In his latest post on his blog at The Smirking Chimp, Mike Whitney paints a very dark picture ahead for the U.S.:

“One bank to rule them all;
One bank to bind them…”

These are dark times. While you were sleeping the cockroaches were busy about their work, rummaging through the US Constitution, and putting the finishing touches on a scheme to assert absolute power over the nation’s financial markets and the country’s economic future. Industry representative Henry Paulson has submitted legislation to congress that will finally end the pretense that Bush controls anything more than reading the lines from a 4′ by 6′ teleprompter situated just inches from his lifeless pupils. Paulson is in charge now, and the coronation is set for sometime early next week. He rose to power in a stealthily-executed Bankster’s Coup in which he, and his coterie of dodgy friends, declared martial law on the US economy while elevating himself to supreme leader.

“All Hail Caesar!” The days of the republic are over.

Section 8 of the proposed legislation says it all:

“Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

Right; “non-reviewable” supremacy.

[…]

Read the remainder of this post here.


Arianna Huffington: The Bailout Plan: Welcome to Economic Shock and Awe

September 23, 2008

In the preface to her post, Arianna Huffington has this to say about the Paulson bailout package:

“Over the past 30 years, Americans have been bombarded with sermons evangelizing for the free market religion of the Right. In the course of selling us on buying, the market-worshippers tried to convince us that all concerns about the most vulnerable members of society could be left up to the soulless, self-correcting calculus of supply and demand. Government involvement was an anachronism, regulatory oversight an impediment. The last few weeks have demolished that notion. In the battle over the proper role of government, the high priests of the church of the Free Market — including Bush, Paulson, and the Masters of Wall Street — have suffered a monumental defeat. So why are we allowing them to dictate the terms of their surrender?

Arianna begins her corresponding article The Bailout Plan: Welcome to Economic Shock and Awe with this:

See if this sounds familiar:

There is a gathering threat to the safety of the United States. We must take immediate action. Congress must quickly grant the President and the Secretary what they want and also give them full and unfettered authority to execute the plan.

Welcome to Economic Shock and Awe (or as some have dubbed it, according to Paul Krugman, “the Authorization for Use of Financial Force”).

Even the amount of taxpayer money being bandied about — $1 trillion — is similar. Think you got your money’s worth for the Iraq war? Congratulations — you’re about to buy another pricey debacle.

[…]

Read the rest of this article here.


Dirty Secret Of The Bailout: Thirty-Two Words That None Dare Utter

September 23, 2008

This post by Jason Linkins in The Huffington Post sheds light on the proposed Bush Administration bailout package:

A critical – and radical – component of the bailout package proposed by the Bush administration has thus far failed to garner the serious attention of anyone in the press. Section 8 (which ironically reminds one of the popular name of the portion of the 1937 Housing Act that paved the way for subsidized affordable housing ) of this legislation is just a single sentence of thirty-two words, but it represents a significant consolidation of power and an abdication of oversight authority that’s so flat-out astounding that it ought to set one’s hair on fire. It reads, in its entirety:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

In short, the so-called “mother of all bailouts,” which will transfer $700 billion taxpayer dollars to purchase the distressed assets of several failed financial institutions, will be conducted in a manner unchallengeable by courts and ungovernable by the People’s duly sworn representatives. All decision-making power will be consolidated into the Executive Branch – who, we remind you, will have the incentive to act upon this privilege as quickly as possible, before they leave office. The measure will run up the budget deficit by a significant amount, with no guarantee of recouping the outlay, and no fundamental means of holding those who fail to do so accountable.

[…]

Read the rest of this article here.


Mike Whitney: Full-Spectrum Breakdown

September 23, 2008

Mike Whitney calls Henry Paulson’s bailout plan “a band-aid approach to a sucking chest wound”. He goes on to say: “The debts are enormous and the pain will be substantial, but the problem cannot be resolved by crushing the middle class or destroying the currency”. Whitney’s article condemns and explains the deregulated US financial system: “Now taxpayers will pay for the lawless system which men like “industry rep” Henry Paulson put in place. That’s deregulation in a nutshell; a system that allows Wall Street banksters to create credit out of thin air and then run weeping to Congress when their swindles backfire. shows the dire consequences of an unsupervised marketplace where individual players are allowed to create as much credit as they choose”.

The system is at the breaking point, and despite Wall Street’s elation from the proposed $1 trillion dollar bailout to remove toxic mortgage-backed debt from banks balance sheets, the market is still correcting in what has become a vicious downward cycle. This cycle will persist until the bad debts are accounted for and written off for or until the exhausted dollar-system collapses altogether. Either way, the volatility and violent dislocations will continue for the foreseeable future.

And more…

The problems cannot be resolved by shifting the debts of the banks onto the taxpayer. That’s an illusion. By adding another $1 or $2 trillion dollars to the National Debt, Paulson is just ensuring that interest rates will go up, real estate will crash, unemployment will soar, and foreign central banks will abandon the dollar. In truth, there is no fix for a deleveraging market anymore than there is a fix for gravity. The belief that massive debts and insolvency can be erased by increasing liquidity just shows a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. That’s why Henry Paulson is the worst possible person to be orchestrating the so called rescue project. Paulson comes from a business culture which rewards deception, personal acquisitiveness, and extreme risk-taking. Paulson is to finance capitalism what Rumsfeld is to military strategy. His leadership, and the congress’ pathetic abdication of responsibility, assures disaster. Besides, why should the taxpayers be happy that the stocks of Morgan Stanley, Washington Mutual and Goldman Sachs surged on the news that there would be a government bailout yesterday? These banks are essentially bankrupt and their business models are broken. Keeping insolvent banks on life support is not a rescue plan; it’s insanity.

[…]

Read Mike Whitney’s entire article here.