Which Economy is Obama Talking About?

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Myths of Recovery Counterpunch The State of the Union address is in danger of purveying the usual euphemisms. I expect Obama to brag that he has overseen a recovery. But can there be any such thing as a jobless recovery? What has recovered are stock market averages and Wall Street bonuses, not disposable personal income or discretionary spending after paying debt service. There is a dream that what can be “recovered” is something so idyllic as to be mythical: a Bubble Economy enabling people to make money without actually working, by borrowing and riding the tide of asset-price inflation to make capital gains. Corporate Democrat Harold Ford Jr. writes nostalgically that Bill Clinton’s eight years in office created 22 million jobs, “balanced the ...

On the Eve of the State of the Union

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Will Obama Put Muscle Into the White House's New Populist Play? Counterpunch At stake now is President Obama’s credibility as an agent for change. Voters see his main “change” thus far to have been favoritism to Wall Street. Jay Leno jokes that Obama has done the impossible: resurrected the seemingly dying Republican Party and given it the coveted label of the “Party of Change,” running against Wall Street. This is the political setting for what must certainly be a hastily rewritten State of the Union message. Instead of celebrating a Republican- and Lieberman-approved health care bill, Obama finds himself obliged to respond to voters who celebrated his first anniversary in office by choosing a Republican as their designated voice for change. Those voters in ...

Wall Street’s Power Grab

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The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Hearings Counterpunch You almost could hear the bankers heave a sigh of relief when Haiti’s earthquake knocked the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission hearings off the front pages and evening news broadcasts last week. At stake, after all, is Wall Street’s power grab seeking to centralize policy control firmly in its own hands by neutralizing the government’s regulatory agencies. The first day – Wednesday, January 15 – went innocuously enough. Four emperors of finance were called on to voice ceremonial platitudes and pro forma apologies without explaining what they might be apologizing for. Typical was the statement by Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd C. Blankfein: “Whatever we did, it didn’t work out well. We regret the consequence that people ...

Iceland can refuse debt servitude

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Financial Times Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, Iceland’s president, has created uproar with his decision to block legislation that would have repaid €3.9bn ($5.6bn) lost by British and Dutch savers in a failed Icelandic bank, triggering a referendum that the government is expected to lose. The initial response by credit rating agencies was to downgrade Icelandic bonds, as if Iceland were repudiating its debts, Argentina-style. But opponents of the bill have no intention of reneging on their legal obligations. At issue is what the relevant European law says should be done – and, more to the point, what should have been done on October 6 2008, when Gordon Brown closed down the UK operations of Icesave, an online subsidiary of Landesbanki, Iceland’s second-biggest bank. ...