November 22nd, 2009


Where Has All the Money Gone?

America's economy today is a shell game designed to disguise what is happening while rich, powerful people pocket the money.

A large amount of money was set aside to address the foreclosure problem by modifying mortgages. Unfortunately the government put this money into the hands of the very institutions who caused the problem in the first place. As I predicted, very little of it has tinkled down to the homeowners, who should have been the direct recipients in the first place. And we're still no closer to seeing the fine details of the mess so we can actually work on fixing it.

Attempt to Push Transparency for Mortgage Modifications Falls Short
Paul Kiel, ProPublica: "For months, housing advocates have complained that mortgage servicers are wrongfully denying homeowners' applications for the administration's $50 billion mortgage modification program. Last week, the Treasury Department took a step to address those concerns: For the first time, it issued guidelines requiring mortgage servicers to give homeowners details about why they've been denied. But the required disclosure will only be partial, and housing advocates say that means servicers' denials of loan modifications will still be shrouded in secrecy and protected from scrutiny."

Quite a lot of money has gone into bailing out financial institutions after their decisions caused them to run out of money. The idea was to make them functional again. Unfortunately, since the money was given to the same people who caused the problem in the first place, that didn't happen. One thing they did was write themselves a lot of bonuses, out of the taxpayer account. And they didn't put much effort into making new loans to revive the economy. No wonder people around the world are getting pissed at Big Money.

Jim Hightower | The Worthiness of Banker Charity
Jim Hightower, Truthout: "'Repent,' the preacher cried out, startling those who heard him. This was no street evangelist ranting at the passing crowd, but the archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England. His sharp admonition was pointed directly at a particular set of sinners, who undoubtedly had never given any thought to the morality of their actions: the barons of global banking."

We would certainly stand a better chance of improving the economy if we could see clearly what's going on in it. It's difficult or impossible to make good decisions on bad data. That's precisely why so many financial institutions hoard information, so they alone can benefit from it. Hence the shell game. I hold out a slim hope that the legal system will actually make them lift the shells and show the balls. Assuming there are any balls left on the table at all.

Art Levine | Showdown: Ron Paul, Alan Grayson Take On Fed in House Committee Today
Art Levine, Truthout: "The fight by financial reformers to hold the secretive Federal Reserve accountable for its role in allowing Wall Street and big banks to spiral out of control - and then keeping secret how it bailed them out - faces its first major test today. The House Financial Services Committee will consider two competing amendments on auditing the Fed. They can't come too soon. Earlier this week, for instance, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) even filed a lawsuit over the Fed's continuing refusal to disclose the financial institutions that have received federal funds in the last six months - and the terms, if any, of federal assistance."

Surprise, surprise. When you give people wads of money without specifying what it can and can't be used for, and when and how it must be repaid, it tends to disappear. Why is this difficult for "financial experts" to foresee? It shouldn't be. So they had some reason, probably personal profit, to conceal that information from the public.

Mary Susan Littlepage | Report: Bush Officials Knew AIG Would Use Bailout Funds to Pay Counterparties
Mary Susan Littlepage, Truthout: "Government officials were aware that billions of dollars used to bail out American International Group (AIG) last year were used by the insurance giant to pay off its creditors, according to a newly released government watchdog report."

California has a very tight tax code, which makes it difficult for the state to fund vital services. There's no shortage of money in California; it's just in the possession of people who choose not to share any of it. So the state is running out of money for things like roads and schools. Predictably, students are extremely upset at being charged more and given less for it. (Where are they supposed to come up with a third more money in THIS wreck of an economy?) Remember that college is where we teach the people who are going to be running this country in another decade or few. They are tomorrow's bankers, teachers, politicians, doctors, lawyers ... parents. If they are poorly prepared for the job, we will all be sorry for it. If they are ground down by crushing debt, they will perform poorly, and we will ultimately pay for that too. If they just plain hate society for screwing them over, well, history is just full of examples why that's a bad thing.

Rick Cabral | Protests Don't Stop UC Regents' 32 Percent Fee Hike
Rick Cabral, Truthout: "Surrounded by campus police dressed in protective riot gear and armed with beanbag guns, hundreds of student protesters at UCLA today chanted 'Shame on You, Shame on You' toward the building where the UC Regents had just voted to raise tuition and fees by $2,500 over the next year."

Society is overdriving its headlights, and no amount of screaming "SLOW DOWN! WALL AHEAD!" seems to have any effect. People believe stupid lies because they want to believe that somehow rich powerful institutions want to help people. They mostly don't. They haven't for some time. They're more interested in helping themselves, usually to other people's stuff. Ignore all the handwaving and speechifying: look at the actions. We're getting screwed.

Aikido Tips

I found this site for a totally different reason but was fascinated by the "tips for beginners" section. It reminds me very much of writing, where the only way to get good at it is to do it, and it will naturally refine itself as you do more of it over time.