Is Obama Pointless?


obama3Is Obama Pointless?

At the time of his election, it would have been expected that the presidency of Barack Obama would have created a climate more favorable to business ethics. This did not happen. Business ethics were not in any way part of the White House’s agenda. Under Obama, even mild interest in prosecuting business crime is absent. Under Obama, corporate cooperation with the White House has been a continuing priority from the Affordable Healthcare Act to the bizarre HAMP plan to “help” struggling homeowners. Both were business ethics nightmares. The President had run on a platform of open government, and yet a few months after taking office met with the insurance companies and cut a deal insuring their participation and profits in the new healthcare act. HAMP was turned into a deadly and devastating weapon to be used against homeowners, the banks ceaselessly manipulating the rules to force homeowners out while collecting billions of dollars in fees.

I could go on. Where this President could have sided against corporations, but he has avoided this, and is an advocate of enhanced corporate power. If the trans-pacific trade deal were to go into effect, corporations would gain many of the powers of sovereign nations. As if, giant corporation do not have enough influence in the government, the treaty would allow them to sue nations to prevent rules such as regulations on pollution from going into effect.

This President has failed in his duty to protect the American people from corporate villainy, in particular the great Wall Street investment firms.

The lesson of the Obama administration is that influence is better than righteousness, connections than a commitment to the public interest and expediency more powerful than morality.

James Pilant

What the hell is Barack Obama’s presidency for? | Gary Younge | Comment is free | The Guardian

Barack Obama has now been in power for longer than Johnson was, and the question remains: “What the hell’s his presidency for?” His second term has been characterised by a profound sense of drift in principle and policy. While posing as the ally of the immigrant he is deporting people at a faster clip than any of his predecessors; while claiming to be a supporter of labour he’s championing trade deals that will undercut American jobs and wages. In December, even as he pursued one whistleblower, Edward Snowden and kept another, Chelsea Manning, incarcerated, he told the crowd at Nelson Mandela’s funeral: “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.

If there was a plot, he’s lost it. If there was a point, few can remember it. If he had a big idea, he shrank it. If there’s a moral compass powerful enough to guide such contradictions to more consistent waters, it is in urgent need of being reset.

Given the barriers to democratic engagement and progressive change in America – gerrymandering, big money and Senate vetoes – we should always be wary of expecting too much from a system designed to deliver precious little to the poor. We should also challenge the illusion that any individual can single-handedly produce progressive change in the absence of a mass movement that can both drive and sustain it.

Nonetheless, it was Obama who set himself the task of becoming a transformational political figure in the mould of Ronald Reagan or JFK. “I think we are in one of those fundamentally different times right now where people think that things, the way they are going, just aren’t working,” he said. It was he who donned the mantles of “hope” and “change”.

via What the hell is Barack Obama’s presidency for? | Gary Younge | Comment is free | The Guardian.

From around the web.

From the web site, FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

http://tfoxlaw.wordpress.com/tag/obama/

Still this resistance may be changing. In an article in the New York Times (NYT), entitled “Obama Urged To Back Plan To List Owners Of Shell Firms”, Ravi Somaiya reported that “Anticorruption activists have urged President Obama to back a plan to publicly register the owners of shell companies in the United States and around the world, a move they say is essential to thwart corrupt government officials, tax evaders and money launderers who rely on an opaque financial system.” This problem has existed for several years in the US. Somaiya reported that “The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau of the Treasury Department, estimated in 2005 that as much as $18 billion in suspicious transactions were made using international wire transfers that used shell companies in the United States.”

Somaiya also quoted Jack A. Blum, a lawyer and the chairman of Tax Justice Network USA, who said “These anonymous shell companies are used by everybody who steals money. Tens of thousands of shell corporations have been set up within the United States, he said, primarily in four states — Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming — that have loose regulations.” We know that the bad guys are selling the U.S. as a place to set up companies,” Mr. Blum said, citing its “aura of legitimacy.”

How does all of this relate to due diligence as the US problem would not seem to impact a company covered by FCPA? First of all, a company should know with whom they are doing business, and more pointedly a US company which is subject to the UK Bribery Act needs to recognize that any agent, distributor or other type of representative here in the US, is a foreign entity under the Bribery Act and needs full due diligence. While the jurisdictional scope of the Bribery Act has yet to be fully fleshed out, such a US company needs to consider its due diligence here in the US and may need to strengthen its investigations and background checks on such parties to comply with the Bribery Act.

From the web site, Deadly Clear.

http://deadlyclear.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/hamp-the-modification-scam-and-now-settlement-sham/

See, the banks are not in the mortgage business to loan, they are in it to default and profit by defaults; to collect servicing fees and bid on defaults in the market and to sell a house multiple times… until their investors got wise and wanted their money back.  Thus, the creation of TARP, and then HAMP, a scam to support the banks by foaming the runway, deceiving the mortgagors that they could actually get a modification while they paced the timing of their foreclosures. These bailout plans were never for you and me.

The banksters’ eyes must have burst into tears of joy when they realized they could use the already deceptive HAMP program to confiscate even more homes. The homeowners were promised modifications which neither the federal officials nor banks intended to give as the only intent was to slowly foreclose and parallel a modification program which they knowingly had no intention to approve. They went one step farther and found if they lied to the homeowner who was not in default or behind in payments and just wanted a modification, that they would gain the homeowners’ confidence and tell them to stop making payments for 3-4 months in order to qualify for the modification.

The banks knew full well that the homeowners would rely on the banks to be telling them the right thing to do. After the homeowner was in default (per the banks’ instructions – all verbal of course), the banks would foreclose on the homeowner instead of approve the modification.

Joe Mason for President 2012 – Strong Criticism of Obama’s Record


This video was not discovered by me but by James Fallows at The Atlantic. Here’s his take on the video

The main complaint in this video is that Obama’s “conciliatory” and “reasonable” approach, far from being wise and strategically far-seeing, has proven to be simply weak and vacillating. This is related to the “chess master, or pawn?” debate about Obama’s strategy from earlier this summer.

(You should read all of Mr. Fallows comments. It’s a good essay.)

After listening to the video I was impressed. However, I am a little surprised at Joe Mason’s lack of a web footprint. For a would be presidential candidate, he barely exists in the world of the Internet. If my count is correct, I will be the third web site to feature this video. Please watch it now (just click on it).

Joe Mason for President 2012: Democratic Party Re-Nomination of Obama Challenged

(The Joe Mason video is also featured on Vote Third Party. Currently, the Joe Mason Campaign is apparently almost entirely a You Tube site.)

Whatever form, the Joe Mason campaign takes, it has a powerful criticism of the President’s leadership style. Many feel including myself that the President is a poor negotiator with few fixed beliefs of any importance.

Should this generate a primary challenge?

Absolutely.

Currently the Democratic Party essentially offers voters one thing only – they are not Republicans. Apparently, many Democrats think this is enough. They are so confident in this strategy that they toss their allies particularly Progressives and Liberals over the side with regularity and contempt. Further, they are absent any ideas on how to help the great middle class survive the current cycle of economic catastrophe.

The President is a pure example of this. The main and most effective threats as well as a flurry of vicious insults of his Presidency have been delivered to the liberal wing of the Democratic party to force them to get in line. They are apparently the only recipients of this kind of treatment, the Republicans hearing little but kind words.

You see, to politicians like Obama, those who have voted for the Democrats in the past have nowhere to go. Obviously, they have to vote for him, so they can be treated with disdain.

The fear of Rick Perry, Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann will bring the reluctant party faithful crawling back on their hands and knees to the only “adult in the room.”

I don’t believe that.

We don’t have to vote for Barack Obama and a good way to let him know that is a primary challenge.

The only way that Progressives and Liberals are going to have an effective say is when these kinds of politicians are humiliated at the polls and ridiculed by the party faithful.

As long as the Progressive wing of the party votes without question for a candidate there is no influence. He who can destroy a thing has power. There are easily enough Progressive voters whose defection would defeat Democrats at the polls.

That will be painful.

But is it as painful as watching Barack Obama yield time and again to the enemies of the Middle Class? Would it be as painful as having huge, almost without precedent, majorities in the House and Senate frittered away on half measures and simple inaction for two full years? Would it be as painful as watching the nation’s first real chance at health care reform thrown away for a surrender to the drug and insurance companies modeled on an old Heritage Foundation idea? Would it be as bad as watching the President ignore campaign promise after campaign promise, these superficial promises apparently only made to bamboozle the left-wing of the party to vote for him? Would it be as bad as watching a financial élite who plunged this nation into recession be rescued with taxpayer funds from their own folly?

I tell you truly, it is awful to watch the political victories of your enemies. But there is something worse, and that is to see the people you elected, you worked for, you believed in, act against your interest and call it victory.

James Pilant

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Campaign for America’s Future: Extremists Won (via Beaver County Blue)


The author explains why the budget deal is a disaster. I agree with everything in the article.

The biggest disaster is to our chances of rational government. The President has handed the House or Representatives a sledgehammer to pound him to mulch anytime they want something.

James Pilant

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Professional politicians made up of mostly lawyers con men (via str8media)


Yeah. Pretty much.

We have a brand new national catastrophe. There is no way to sugar coat it, no way to improve the sound of it. Middle class Americans are going to suffer a further decline in benefits, job security and educational potential while the “bond” market is protected (although it was doing just fine).

James Pilant

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Middle Class And Poor To Feel The Pain After Deal Is Passed (via Sky’s Universal Predications)


Yes, as always, this is the case. The beltway bloviators, the “villagers,” the 24 hour news networks, the opinion makers, etc. long ago decided that the great mass of Americans were a bunch of lazy, unmotivated, whiny, and fat hogs who need the discipline of the market in their pointless lives. I am reminded of the condemnation in the Bible for those who load the poor with burdens while being unwilling to bear any burden of their own.

James Pilant

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The Best of the Debt Ceiling Postings on the Web


Wright Investor Services discusses the debt ceiling debate’s effect on stocks. There is no pro or con here just cold analysis.

eleriravuby in a posting called: Conservative ire threatens GOP debt plan in House (AP)   comments as follows –

For all that, it was the tea party-backed members of Boehner’s own party who continued to vex him, and heavily influence the debt and deficit negotiating terms ? not to mention his chances of holding on to the speakership.

THE DC FOLLY TROLLEY (via Corruptus Maximus) This is not a kind view of the Obama Administration.

It’s a gorgeous road (via A Walternative Universe) Here are some beautiful photographs followed by political commentary – it’s all very well done.

Hurry up and wait…. (via From D.C., With Love) This appears to be an actual participant in the crisis, a D.C. insider. However, she’s not giving up any heads up’s on the crisis.

current politics (via JCS Blog) This writer believes that our current debt ceiling situation is a positive thing. Please read and see what you think.

Here’s a comment from  Predictions (via Tfgray’s Weblog) –

True, I came up with a different reason for Wall Street’s blasé attitude, but there’s a fundamental similarity. They’ve already figured out a way to make money off it. Buy low, sell high is a lot easier to do when everyone is bailing on their investments in order to cover the expenses that their Social Security check used to.

This is a very cynical comment. I really like it. One must appreciate cynicism when it is delivered accurately.

Here is the last of the blog posts I enjoyed (and had time to read). Take a look at this paragraph – this is some pointed writing.  It’s from – The Fairest Game: Servants of Oligarchs (via For The Kindle/Lulu Ebook Lover)

The debt ceiling debates in Washington seem to best illustrate my point. This is the silliest political side show I have ever seen. It seems like we have a lot of those these days with the strange goal of this non official so-called Tea Party leading these power hungry Republicans by the nose rings. In Speaker Beohner, for instance, we have what must be one of the most Lillie livered politician ever to grace the front page of any newspaper. If my memory serves me, I believe it was he who stated that the leader of the republican party was actually Rush Limbaugh. It wasn’t something that he suggested in some round about way, either. For this professional public servant a race/class baiting talk show host was the leader of the Grand Old Party, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the party of Dwight Eisenhower. It’s men like this, politicians like this who are, next to (very sadly to say) our current President who are the fairest game, the fairest game for the angry public, for comedians, for cartoonists. Why, because what we see speaking to us from the radios and TV sets are the servants of oligarchs. Their actions are meant to fly in the face of the overall public.

Obviously, I could only cover a small proportion of the writing on the net but I do hope you enjoy my selections.

James Pilant

 

Five Reasons the House GOP Is to Blame (via James Fallows from The Atlantic)


James Fallows continues his comments on the current debt ceiling crisis. –

Here’s a comparison: Suppose, by similar quirk, there was an arbitrary ceiling on the amount of ammunition the U.S. military could buy each year. Or the amount of fuel for drones, bombers, and Humvees. Like overall national debt, these purchases are foreseeable consequences of previous political decisions — in this case, about the wars the country decides to fight. But suppose that when the “ammo ceiling” came due for its routine extension, a group of legislators said they would refuse. No more bullets or jet fuel after August 2, and for good measure no more food for the troops, unless demands for radical change in future foreign policy were met in full. That would rightly be seen as blackmail, and as a reckless willingness to damage the nation for partisan ends. A similar reckless exercise in blackmail is underway now, with the difference that the consequences can be longer-lasting and worse.

Blackmail- that’s exactly how I see it. I am happy to observe that I am not the only one.

There is not much to be done now. The Republicans cannot generate a bill that will get a majority of their own caucus’ vote. Without that, there is no chance of a congressional action ending the crisis. The only ball park left is for the President to declare that based on a Constitutional provision, the United States will continue to pay its debts.

I doubt if he has the will or the courage. Of course, even mice pushed into a corner will on occasion bite.

James Pilant

The U.S. as ‘Lethal Laughing Stock’ (via James Fallows from the Atlantic)


This is from James Fallows –

Yesterday I mentioned that governmental paralysis over the debt ceiling — a wholly artificial construct* being addressed with mainly incoherent arguments** — was already turning the strongest, richest country in the world into an international laughing stock, whether or not we reach the final disaster of a default.

Yes, that’s about right.

It’s easy to blame the ideology driven House or Representatives but the real villain is the President. Obama has established a reputation as a negotiator ever ready to cave under every imaginable circumstance, always willing to appear as the “adult in the room” no matter what has to be given up to maintain that image. But if that isn’t enough, we have a President celebrated for his eloquence who is constantly unable to rally the American people behind any major policy whatever. His speech this week should have laid out the shady blackmail being played out by the House, instead it’s a wimp suggestion to “call your congressman.”

I would like to explain something to Mr. Obama. My congressman is one of those people who are blackmailing him to do what they want on the budget. There is no threat I can imagine including physical violence that will change his mind. He could not care less what I think and probably even less what the President thinks.

I am a constituent of this person only in the most technical sense. In reality I am meaningless to him. His real constituency is Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party and talk radio. The President’s call for phone call activism is a waste of his and my time.

So, the train wreck approaches. Will the President cave? Of course – that’s almost his profession.

But that is not enough any more to stop default. There are too many competing plans and the Republicans Congress is split – unable to generate a majority for any one plan. Even if they can get it together in these last few days. any bill put together by these petty blackmailers, is dead on arrival in the Senate.

So, disaster is coming, kinds of a 2012 apocalypse on an early schedule.

James Pilant

 

They Make A Wasteland and Call It Healthcare


The Individual Mandate.

President Obama took universal health care and converted it into an insurance company bonanza. The President claims a great victory and says he has accomplished what many Presidents failed to do. Quite a victory. It reminds me of a quote about a war “They take a wasteland and call it peace.” Well we have the wasteland.

We live in a country where you can at penalty of law be forced to buy medical insurance.

It’s a great precedent. Think of all the things Congress might decide you should buy. From the innocuous like an emergency medical kit to disaster insurance (only if you live on the coast) to forced retirement accounts only in Wall Street Investments (We wouldn’t want the Chinese to get American money). The government has the power to force Americans to make any business profitable.

Back in the days before the Civil War, many people called the new industrial workers, “wage slaves.” What does that make us, “insurance slaves?” Taxes are one thing. I understand that civilized societies need to do things, defense, education, etc. But when did business get to collect taxes? Because that’s essentially what this is. The government mandates that you buy a service whether or not you want it. Everyone has to pay out the money, no exceptions. That’s a tax.

Individual responsibility.

They always cry out this one phrase, whenever they take something from you. Now, they say, once you’re buying insurance, you’ll be compelled to act responsibly. No free riders (Brush those teeth, eat right). You’ll be part of the system. I don’t think I have to worry about you being fooled.

This is an insurance company mandate.

There is no universal health care here. Forced consumers are powerless consumers. What do you get when you have no bargaining power? Tell me, if you have a $4,000 deductible, how inclined are you to get medical problems looked after? Not having insurance is a set of problems. They are formidable problems. Having this kind of insurance is a set of problems. They have you like so many rats in a trap. Bewildering sets of rules, denials of insurance claims, endless games and financial penalties aimed at American citizens. There is indeed insurance here, the insurance companies are insured against loss. They are insured against their own incompetence, stupidity and failure.

They’re too big to fail. Could the government allow an insurance company to go under? Wouldn’t that interfere with the smooth delivery of services? What’s a few billion here or there to keep the system running. And the government will have new ways to make insurance companies on the backs of Americn taxpayers.

How about profit? Let’s have a look.

This is a superb post by one of my favorite bloggers, J.N. Nielson on his blog, Grand Strategy: The view from Oregon.

How about the money?

How much cash flow are we talking about as a result of the individual mandate? I did some very rough calculations — literally on the back of an old envelope — and if we take the frequently cited figure of 47 million Americans without health insurance, and divide this by average household size of 2.59, we get more than 18 million uninsured households. I found figures cited between $46,000 and $50,000 as the median US household income in 2010. I took the lower number of $46,000, and found estimates between 7.5 and 12.8 percent of household income to be spent on healthcare (the Urban Institute’s report cited above gives a rate of 2.5 percent, but this is not to be taken seriously). If we pick a number between the two percentages cited, between the high and the low figure, we get about $4,650.00 annually for health insurance per household. This is an unrealistically low number, but I’m doing a conservative calculation. With these conservative numbers, we find that the individual mandate would funnel another 83.7 billion dollars into the coffers of the insurance industry annually. This is cash flow that they can leverage even if they have to pay out a little more than 83 billion in claims.

83.7 billion dollars. Pretty good chunk of change, courtesy of the United States government.

Will The Deficit Kill Us?


Joseph White has written a timely article. In the past few weeks we have been deluged with dire warnings about the deficit, sometimes they featured the Chinese, sometimes the destruction of social security; it was all very dramatic. Then when the continuation of tax cut became an issue, it all faded a way until the wealthy were assured their tax cuts. It was a budget buster of colossal size, totally unsupportable. It will cripple the government in financing every expenditure save those supported by their own fees.

Now that the wealthy have their money, the deficit has returned as an issue. We must cut back on entitlements. We must find cuts in education, etc.

The two-faced asinine clowns of the beltway would be funny if they weren’t taken so seriously.

Joseph White in the article quoted below has doubts as to the importance of deficit reduction.

I have similar doubts about the dangers of the deficit. However, the idea of deficit reduction now in the midst of the Second Great Depression strikes me as far more serious and dangerous. Such austerity reduces the size of any recovery and delays it. I have seen estimates of up to ten years of recovery to return to 2007 levels of employment.

We need a serious national discussion about expenditures. We will not get it from Obama’s stacked commissions or the “beltway boys.” The big act is that these are not matters of dispute. “Everyone recognized the danger of deficits.” “Like a well functioning family, a nation must not have any debts.” Etc.

Those are not settled matters. There are far more nuances to national debt management than any family budget.

As usual, I call with little hope for actual intelligent thought.

This is written by Joseph White at the Financial Times –

In the 1980s, deficit hawks recognized that, in the words of former CBO Director Rudy Penner, , “the crisis is there is no crisis.” In other words, the deficit wasn’t actually hurting people much. But it could, eventually, like “termites in the basement” as former OMB Director Charlie Schultze put it. How could this be dramatized?

One approach was to make arguments about the economic good that would be accomplished by reducing deficits. The idea was that lower deficits would produce greater national savings so more investment and a larger economy. Unfortunately, the standard economic estimates (such as by CBO) did not project enough extra growth to convincingly justify the pain of the deficit reduction. (Would you have abolished the Navy and Medicaid so that the economy would be 3% bigger thirty years later?). So deficit hawks promoted two other arguments, each of which should sound familiar.

One was to invent scenarios about what would happen if absolutely nothing were done for decades – a highly implausible case, but one that could, with sufficient assumptions, lead to economic disaster. The point was to promote so much fear that the goal of deficit reduction would take precedence over messy, uncomfortable subjects like the consequences of any particular means of reducing the deficit.

The other was to claim that “the markets” would eventually turn against the U.S. government and U.S. economy because of the spiraling debt, forcing some sort of payback that would make everyone miserable. …

I had never thought about it the way he presents it. I think this is similar attitude to Paul Krugman.

I recommend it to your reading and thought.

James Pilant