RSSCategory: Culture

JP Morgan continues to slurp at the public trough

June 23, 2012 | By | Reply More
JP Morgan continues to slurp at the public trough

According to Bloomberg:

JPMorgan receives a government subsidy worth about $14 billion a year, according to research published by the International Monetary Fund and our own analysis of bank balance sheets. The money helps the bank pay big salaries and bonuses. More important, it distorts markets, fueling crises such as the recent subprime-lending disaster and the sovereign-debt debacle that is now threatening to destroy the euro and sink the global economy . . . To estimate the dollar value of the subsidy in the U.S., we multiplied it by the debt and deposits of 18 of the country’s largest banks, including JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. The result: about $76 billion a year. The number is roughly equivalent to the banks’ total profits over the past 12 months, or more than the federal government spends every year on education.

On his June 22, 2012 show, Bill Moyers discussed this insane state of affairs, and the rampant corruption and criminality of Wall Street with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone and Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism.

Yves Smith offers this as part of the solution to the ongoing problem with large Wall Street banks:

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean when you say banks should be more like a utility?

YVES SMITH: Banks, more than any other business, more than military contractors, live off the government. They depend on government backstopping. They exist only by way of government issued licenses, which if you had open entry you’d see much lower fees. And they get some confidence from the public from the fact that they are regulated. Oh, and the most important thing is they have access to–

MATT TAIBBI: The Federal Reserve.

YVES SMITH: –the Federal Reserve.

MATT TAIBBI: They’re getting huge amounts of free money.

YVES SMITH: Well, not just the free money. The Federal Reserve basically guarantees the payment system. You know, that’s the really critical architecture that banks control is that, you know, we write checks to each other. We have credit cards. They clear through banks.

But the fact that banks can exchange money with each other confidently is because the Fed stands behind that. So there’s a much– there’s another layer of Fed backstopping beyond what we think of the way they step in in a crisis or the way they’re now intervening to help the banks. So the fact that these institutions really depend in a very fundamental way on government support means they don’t have any right to the upside.

I mean, they should really be paid like public servants. I mean, I’m not kidding. I mean, and if they had been, if the pay had been ratcheted down after the crisis, I would have had a lot more sympathy for them, even if they just behaved for a couple of years. You know, they were bailed out. And then in 2009 the industry went and paid itself record bonuses, higher than 2007 instead of rebuilding their balance sheets. I mean, this was just a slap in the face for the public.

BILL MOYERS: And there’s no shame.

YVES SMITH: No.

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How to make an island

June 19, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
How to make an island

Do you need to get away from it all? Do you crave an island of your own? Richie Sowa was in that position. Rather than find an island or buy one, he decided to make his own. The foundation of his island is consists of empty plastic water bottles.

Sowa is now growing his own bananas, coconuts, spinach, almonds and tomatoes. In the video below, he says that he has everything he wants. Although his island is currently in Mexico, he plans to keep increasing the size of the island, until he sets out to sea.

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Why is Jerry Sandusky News?

June 19, 2012 | By | 6 Replies More
Why is Jerry Sandusky News?

I was sitting in the barber chair this morning, where they had on some national news show that spent the entire time I was there discussing the ongoing trial of (alleged) pedophile Jerry Sandusky. I’ve been hearing about this on news stations for months. They are spending as long on the nightly news discussing this trial as they do on the collapse of the European economies or the coups in various major oil-producing nations.

I am truly puzzled about the coverage. There are likely several pedophiles on trial any given day. Why are they not newsworthy? Is it because he is a coach? Many of them are. Was it because he was a winning coach?

I just don’t understand why this one (alleged) pedophile is as newsworthy as wars deposing dictators to replace them with democratically elected Islamist regimes. Are both events shaping the course of civilization?

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Marriage Counseling

June 16, 2012 | By | Reply More

Here’s another cartoon from ARG, who offers two perspectives on marriage counseling:

More of ARG‘s work can be found here.

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Cost of raising a child

June 14, 2012 | By | Reply More
Cost of raising a child

How much does it cost to raise a child? According to the Associated Press:

For $235,000, you could indulge in a shiny new Ferrari — or raise a child for 17 years. A government report released Thursday found that a middle-income family with a child born last year will spend about that much in child-related expenses from birth through age 17. That’s a 3.5 percent increase from 2010.

This immense amount of money required to raise a child has serious ramifications.

At this time, though, I would merely like to note that there are (assuming a child sleeps 8 hours a day) a child is awake almost 100,000 hours over 17 years (17 years x 365 days x 16 hours waking time per day). That means that it costs parents about $2.35 for each of their children’s waking hours.

But parents don’t necessarily get to enjoy the company of their children during every one of their child’s waking hours. I’m going to make a great leap and guess that parents only spend about 4 hours per day in the company of each of their children each day over a period of 17 years. Therefore, parents spend about 24,820 hours in the company of their children over 17 years. Therefore, it costs parents ($235,000/24,820) $9.47 for each hour that they actually get to spend with each of their children during the first 17 years.

Quite often, this can be a great bargain, at least in my experience.

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Four trillion in secret loans

June 14, 2012 | By | Reply More
Four trillion in secret loans

Keep in mind that all of the U.S. tax receipts for an entire year are only two trillion dollars. Now read this:

“”This report reveals the inherent conflicts of interest that exist at the Federal Reserve.  At a time when small businesses could not get affordable loans to create jobs, the Fed was providing trillions in secret loans to some of the largest banks and corporations in America that were well represented on the boards of the Federal Reserve Banks.  These conflicts must end,” [Senator Bernie] Sanders said.”

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Growing income disparity and its consequences

June 7, 2012 | By | 7 Replies More
Growing income disparity and its consequences

Joseph Stiglitz has some shocking numbers:

Nowadays, these numbers show that the American dream is a myth. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in Europe – or, indeed, in any advanced industrial country for which there are data. This is one of the reasons that America has the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries – and its gap with the rest has been widening. In the “recovery” of 2009-2010, the top 1% of US income earners captured 93% of the income growth. Other inequality indicators – like wealth, health, and life expectancy – are as bad or even worse. The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty at the bottom.

This is troubling, but not merely for a sense of mathematical equality or even gut level justice. This is bad news because income disparity hurts people in predictable and demonstrable ways.

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The real lesson of Facebook

May 31, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
The real lesson of Facebook

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone sharply questions the integrity of the stock market:

Virtually every week now we see stories like this that hint at a kind of two-tiered market system – in which most of the real action takes place inside an unregulated black-box network of connected insiders who don’t disclose their relationships or their interests, while everyone else, i.e. the regular suckers, live in the more tightly-policed world of prospectuses and quarterly reporting and so on. . . . Sooner or later, people are going to clue into the fact that one or two big banks, acting in concert with a choice assortment of unscrupulous “preferred investors,” can at least temporarily prop up or topple just about anything they want, from Greece to Bear Stearns to Lehman Brothers.

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A few words about traditional marriage

May 30, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
A few words about traditional marriage

Jay Michaelson delivers some inconvenient news to those who claim that marriage has always meant one man committed to one woman:

Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)

But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!

I would add that even in modern times, “marriage” means serial monogamy–being committed for life to one special person, until you get tired of that person and then move on to being committed to a different person forever.

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