The Government’s View on Business Loans

The government attempts to provide resources that can help encourage businesses to continue to grow. Business loans are essential to fostering a healthy economy, and the government has acknowledged this fact by taking steps to allow businesses to secure the financing that they need to succeed.

While the Small Business Administration (SBA) does not directly offer loans, it does aim to connect small business owners with lenders. Loans that are found through the SBA can be used to start a new business or expand an existing business. SBA loans are easier to obtain than other forms of financing because the government guarantees up to 75 percent of the amount of the loan. This means that the government gives banks assurance that the loans will be paid back even if the small business owner is not able to personally pay back the loan.

Loan amounts range from $100,000 to $5 million. The amount of financing that a business can be approved for depends on the business plan and available assets.

Studies show that small business loans have decreased in recent history because small businesses are hesitant to borrow money in an unstable economy. However, government-backed loans make it easier for businesses to qualify for loans. Interest rates on loans available through the SBA have decreased, and this trend has made it an even better time for small businesses to secure financing.

Obtaining business loans that are sponsored by the SBA may be easier than a traditional bank loan, but there are still steps that businesses need to take to qualify for financing and increase the chance of business success. A solid, well thought out business plan is the most important part of applying for financing. The most successful businesses start with a good idea and expand on this idea by deciding on how to distribute financing, manufacture goods or set up services and establish an effective marketing plan.

The government has also been concerned with the development of businesses in rural communities. Because of this concern, the Business & Industry Guaranteed Loan Program is available to offer financing to businesses that wish to start running a company that benefits rural communities.

Businesses seeking financing for expansions or starting a new company can take advantage of government programs that aim to connect businesses with lenders that are likely to lend based on the business plan, assets and current success of the business. If you are a new company, visit www.startuploans.org for more information.

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 by rick |

Ron Paul, and Paulistas, Make the (Sexy and Dangerous) News

Surreality and reality hit Ron Paul and the Paulistas this week. First we find that Sasha Cohen’s Bruno will feature Ron Paul getting punked during last year’s Presidential run. He left the set muttering “queer” over and over. Paulistas are whining, and about a Missouri report on militias that targets Ron Paul bumper stickers.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Ron Paul is also going to make it in the movies, where he will be playing the punkee to Sasha Baron Cohen’s Bruno. The scene, as described in Slate, is really funny. Bruno’s character is the flip side to Borat, a very heterosexual character who punked his way across America on the way to being a film sensation. Heck, the full title says it best about Bruno: Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-shirt.

Evidently Cohen, playing Bruno, talked Paul into an interview in a suite at a Washington hotel. When a light blew out on the set Cohen and Ron Paul retired to another room while the engineers set about fixing the problem. That’s when Bruno went to work, with soft lights and mellow music. The story, according to Slate, is that Ron Paul stormed out of the room when he realized Bruno/Cohen was attempting to seduce him, muttering the word “queer” several times ont he way out. Lew Rockwell is all angry, of course, as are many Ron Paul supporters. And there’s the usual litany of Republican whiney excuses and recriminations. From Slate:

A spokeswoman for Paul confirmed that the episode took place but declined to provide details. “We don’t want it to distract from his message,” said press secretary Rachel Mills. “Now is the time when people need to be listening to him on economic issues.”

Mills, who was present at the taping, did elaborate on the “queer” line. “I heard him say –weird,’ ” she wrote in an e-mail. “In any case, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer as Folk … it’s not exactly a shocking term if that’s what he did say.”

Mills also noted that Cohen’s people were “very deceptive in their tactics.” At the time, she thought they were “legitimate,” but now confesses to some concern. “I’m familiar with his work, so you can imagine how I feel about it,” she said.

Look, I’m not going to get into anything about the ideas of Ron Paul. But let’s face it. When he did this interview in early 2008 he was trying to convince the country that he could be President of the United States. Sure, Sasha Baron Cohen is good, but it is ridiculous for a Presidential candidate, with all the layers of campaign and PR people surrounding him, to be so thoroughly fooled. He disqualifies himself as Presidential material, and that’s the bottom line.

Now I’m going to get all sorts of comments on here defending Mr. Paul. His people are all about that. But I want to warn them that they are now targets of investigators in Missorui. Yeah, that’s the “Dangerous” part of the title up there. The State of Missouri recently put out a report called the “Modern Militia Movement,” and it gives out telltale signs of what to look for in a homegrown terrorist. That Ron Paul Bumper Sticker? It’s on the list. From KansasCity.com:

A new document meant to help Missouri law enforcement agencies identify militia members or domestic terrorists has drawn criticism for some of the warning signs mentioned.

The Feb. 20 report called “The Modern Militia Movement” mentions such red flags as political bumper stickers for third-party candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president last year; talk of conspiracy theories, such as the plan for a superhighway linking Canada to Mexico; and possession of subversive literature.

Of course this is getting blown all out of proportion by the Paul people. There’s whining at the American Conservative, at Right Side News, at Gather.com, and at Prison Planet. I particularly like Lew Rockwell’s frothing at the mouth, titling his blog post, “If you’re reading this blog, you could be a terrorist…”

Let’s get real. Police need to compile ways of keeping track of the possibility of homegrown terrorists. It is pretty clear in this country that those folks share some of the beliefs of Ron Paul, coming as it does from trend data about milit

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Steven Reynolds |

Against the Grain: Food Shortages in the U.S.?

It’s amazing how a crisis in one commodity market can so significantly affect another commodity market. Take the burgeoning shortages of grains: corn, rice and wheat. Much of the problem can be traced back to skyrocketing oil prices. Call it the “chaos theory” of energy…if a butterfly flaps its wings in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, it impacts corn production in the U.S. heartland…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

From the “law of unintended consequences” file…

There’s a perfect storm brewing in the food supply chain, and it centers on grain products. A portion of the issue (skyrocketing corn prices and lack of availability) is being blamed on 1) corn being diverted into the more lucrative ethanol production market rather than into the food consumption chain, and 2)

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

The GOP Price of Living (and Dying)

Those of us of a certain age have seen the economy expand, then contract, then expand again on many occasions. Things have changed, though – from Reagan’s “revolution” to GHW Bush’s “voodoo economics” through the unprecedented wealth transfer that has happened during Bush II’s reign, there’s a fundamental difference. In that difference lies the reason that I’m a progressive Democrat…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

The BeavI’m old enough to remember when the nuclear family was really the American dream: 2.2 kids, a house with a modest mortgage, mom met the kids at the school bus stop in the afternoon because she didn’t work outside the home, dad came rolling in later in the afternoon, dinner was served, homework was done, then maybe some TV (3 VHF channels and a couple of UHF “independents”). Rinse, spit, repeat.

The promise of technology and automation was never that Americans would lose their jobs to machines, but that the machines would make the jobs more efficient and lead to a better quality of life for everyone. LBJ’s “Great Society” was a product of progressive thinking – that yes, indeed, it was possible for the previous generation to leave the next generation just a little bit better off, and so on and so on.

In the past, I’ve ranted about how there was a palpable shift in the overall demeanor of big business back in the early days of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Perhaps I was a bit closer to it (“the shift”) at the time because of the point that I was at in my career – I’d been with the same employer for a couple of years, making a pretty good wage, and I was the sole breadwinner in the family. That was my role; that was the real role in life I thought I was supposed to play. But I could sense, even back then, that something was terribly amiss. I just couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. Something strange was happening in the work place that augured an uncertain future.

Allow me to use a personal story as a segue into a larger discussion on why I’m a progressive Democrat.

The company I worked for during the Reagan years made a very rapid transformation from a truly “family oriented” employer, to a “bottom line” company. Harvard Business School was just starting to churn out Michael Hammer-cloned MBA graduates using the “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap model of business education. The heady days of merger and acquisition really got cranking around the time of Reagan’s second inauguration. The atmosphere in the workplace shifted dramatically in the space of what felt like just a few short months. In fact, the change was so dramatic that, even in the quasi-professional / technical role that I filled, it was becoming obvious that the only way to survive was for those in my technical specialization to organize with a local labor union. And so we tried – I tried. I was very active in the effort.

I was active in the effort for several reasons, but the most important was that the HBS graduates were starting to fling around the specter of competition and deregulation and corporate survival as if to generate a self fulfilling prophecy. And, to a degree, the HBS’ers did just that. What a union offered, even a professional / technical union, were rules that the company and employees had to live by. I reasoned that, without a legally binding employment contract, non-represented, non-management employees were flying by the seat of their pants and without a net.

In the long run, I was right.

The company used a couple of really shady tactics, aided and abetted by a Reagan-reconstituted National Labor Relations Board ruling, to defeat the organizing effort, and the union local was not prepared well enough to respond. The threat of layoffs never emerged for the rank and file union members in the company, but the professional and technical specialties started to be purged in the late 1980′s, as folks like me began to simply make too much money.

As my salary and 401K grew, I clearly recall sitting at my kitchen table one night and amortizing the value of my salary and benefits 20 years into the future. I somberly recognized that evening that the company couldn’t sustain me and hundreds of my coworkers into the future. At some point, even a modest three or four percent increase per year in a fairly decent salary becomes like compounding interest to the bean counters in a company – and it was clear that something had to give. So the professional ranks started taking hits in terms of layoffs, “performance-based” firings, and early retirement package offerings to those in the organization who held the corporate institutional memory.

Here’s an example of how quickly the changes occurred, and why I worked so hard in the union organizing effort.

At one time, the technical and professional folks made time and a half for overtime (because the company would never compensate their professional people less than their union workers, don’tcha know…). Out of the blue, the non-represented technical workers were required to put in at least 45 hours a week to qualify for time and a half. The uncompensated five hours per week was euphemistically dubbed “professional time”. And then one day, word came down from the executive suite that overtime was completely gone for the professionals. You worked what you had to in order to get your job done, no matter how long it took or how much additional responsibility you had to assume because the guy’s desk next to you was suddenly vacated late on a Friday afternoon (the favorite time to issue pink slips), and there was no replacement for him or her.

But you know who didn’t go? The company never touched the union rank and file, because of the contract. There are still guys working for the company in union positions who were there when the great middle management purge of 1990 took place.

I was fortunate enough to see the handwriting on the wall, and started doing some serious programming work on the side back then, and that led to my ability to leave the company on my own terms in the mid-90′s. After all, computers were where the big money was, Tim Berners-Lee was rolling out the HTTP protocol, and the dot com boom was just getting underway. My services were in pretty high demand, and I brought not only my computer experience to a booming market, but my mature business acumen. It was a great combination that worked for awhile, and I made a pretty good living. And then the dot com bust hit.

Makin' the NutBy the time I was forced back into the job market in the early part of this century, even though my skills were at their peak, my earning power was not. The conservative mantra was, “well, you work whatever you have to work at. McDonalds, whatever. There’s no shame in working hard.” Indeed. It got to the point where I took one of the first jobs that I was offered that was even remotely reasonable in terms of compensation. And then that job was “mergered and acquisitioned”, even though it was in the non-profit sector. The last several years have been a struggle, having come down from positions of both authority and responsibility. In the business climate that I was unfortunate enough to experience, at a certain age, it’s impossible to regain career traction, and you settle for the best job that’s available in order to make ends meet.

I know I’m not alone in my tale, and that there are many out there like me. My real income has declined significantly since the mid-90′s. In fact, I was 1040–²ing more per year in 1995 than I am today. And I’m working harder today than I ever did in my life, for a relatively thankless employer whose executive battle cry at the end of every quarter is: “We’re not making the numbers!! Panic! Panic!!” So, the sales force forward-sells our product line to make this quarter’s numbers at the expense of bookings at the beginning of next quarter. It’s an endless cycle of stupid business decisions that leads to bargain basement deals for our customers, less revenue for the company, and a repeating of the cycle again at the end of next quarter.

The company that I work for in 2008 is by no means exceptional in the modern corporate world. There is no “quality of life”, so to speak. I’m tethered to a cell phone and a computer 24 hour a day, 365 days a year, and I spend my time reacting to business crises rather than getting a break from the bonds. I am literally doing the same work that three people did 20 years ago. But my employer thinks this is ok. (The customers don’t, but that’s another story for another day.)

This is the life that the Republican Party brought to me, and why I’m such a strong progressive, even if I’m getting a bit long in the tooth. I’m angry. I’m angry with the business climate that has upended my life and that of millions of others like me. I’m angry that I’m good enough at what I do that I’m the “go-to” guy when there’s a steaming pile of business shit that someone else has left for me to clean up, but there’s no one to back me up when I have a less than stellar day at the office. I’m angry that at this point in my life I’m locked into a fairly dead-end position because of the paycheck, but more importantly, benefits that I can’t (again, at this point of my life) afford to be without.

In the past year, I’ve seen one of my closest business associates hang it up because it just wasn’t worth it anymore – he bailed out early when he had the opportunity, even as he was somewhat unsure of his financial future. Another (15 years younger than me) had a heart attack just before Christmas. He was back at his desk last week. He’ll never make it to retirement. Another is opting for early retirement in March rather than spend another minute with her nose stuck to the grind stone.

The nuclear family is a dream of the past. There are so many among us (thankfully, I’m not yet one of them) who have to work two and three jobs just to pay the mortgage, electric bill, and put food on the table because real wages have declined so precipitously in years recently passed. But the GOP thinks that’s all right, in fact, they’re proud of it. They think it’s just peachy that mom and dad have to work themselves to the point of exhaustion, and then on the other hand they wonder why the nuclear family has disintegrated.

There is more than just a mortgage crisis at hand, and I don’t think anyone in a position to say so really wants to admit it in polite company. There is a very real family financial liquidity crunch that is underway, and sooner than later, the crunch is going to affect all of us. The unprecedented wealth transfer from poor and middle income families to the uber rich is nearly complete. The folks at the bottom of the GOP-led financial pyramid scheme are nearly bled dry, and the pyramid is about to collapse. To sustain itself a little longer, the folks at the top of the pyramid will have to start an Amway-style ritual of financial cannibalism amongst themselves. I think that (to an extent) this is exactly what we’re seeing in the stock markets and big financial houses as the true meltdown begins. Is this is how it starts?

An executive of a collapsed subprime mortgage lender jumped to his death from a bridge Friday, shortly after his wife’s body was found inside their New Jersey home, authorities said.

The deaths of Walter Buczynski, 59, and his wife, Marci, 37 – the parents of two boys – were being investigated as a murder-suicide, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office…

[He] was a vice president of Columbia, Md.-based Fieldstone Mortgage Co., a high-flying subprime mortgage lender that made $5.5 billion in mortgage loans and employed about 1,000 people as late as 2006.

However, it has since filed for bankruptcy and now has fewer than 20 employees. The company had recently filed court papers seeking approval to pay about $1.1 million in bonuses that would be divided among Buczynski and other staffers so the company could wind down its lending operations and go out of business…

Even in the last throes of corporate failure, the bosses reward themselves.

It’s only speculation, but perhaps this tragedy happened in part because the Buczynski’s were embroiled in some intractable sort of financial difficulty. Still, for each VP of a failed company that can’t take the personal pressure any longer and leaps from a bridge, how many more bodies and destroyed lives from the lower rungs of the economic pyramid have they left in their wake as they pursued the Republican holy grail of financial success and “A-list” cocktail parties?

When consumers stop spending, the economy is going to crash hard. Signs already point to a significant contraction in consumer spending, which is why George Bush today offered up a

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Jim Bunning, (R-KY) Has Bad Taste

Jim Bunning (R-KY) spoke out about Ruth Bader Ginzberg’™s cancer this weekend, actually predicting he imminent death. There is no excuse for a grown man being so crass. But he is a Republican, and there are many examples of such ugly behavior from that side of the aisle, so many that this should not surprise us one bit.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

I’™m willing to say it, that a comment implying anyone is dying soon is in very poor taste. That’™s what he said Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party’™s Lincoln Day Dinner. Evidently predicting the death of someone he doesn’™t care for. . . he knows yhat will plat to his base? From the Louisville Courier Jounal:

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning predicted over the weekend that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months.

During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party’™s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges ‘œand that’™s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg ‘¦ has cancer.’

‘œBad cancer. The kind that you don’™t get better from,’

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Trillions of Dollars for This?

The GOP continues to deride Obama administration attempts to stimulate the floundering economy or fix the broken U.S. healthcare system, but they’ll have no problems in passing billions for the next Iraq / Afghanistan supplemental request.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

We can’t have single payer, universal health care. It costs too much.

Economic stimulus in the form of aid to states for infrastructure repair (government buildings, roads, and bridges) is “pork” and “unnecessary earmarks” – well, at least as long as it’s a Democrat requesting the funding, and not a GOP stalwart such as Ted “Bridge to Nowhere” Stevens.

But pouring good money after bad, into two Islamic theocracies that will never be able to stand on their own? Priceless. I’m starting to wonder if those are Wall Street wizards and bankers hiding under the burquas. Oh, and your “head exploding moment”? Check out the caption for this photo…

Women's Week in Kabul

Afgahn women wear blue scarves symbolizing justice during a ceremony to mark international Women’s Day in the Kandahar province. Women worldwide rallied to demand equal rights and protest against domestic violence and growing poverty in the global economic crisis.

Afghanistan. Women. Equal rights. Domestic violence. Poverty.

Whoever wrote that caption needs to read this book.

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Dear AIG-FP Sr. Vice President Jake DeSantis

An AIG executive is a bit upset, because he feels that he (and other high level execs at AIG) are being hung out to dry by CEO Edward Liddy in the interest of political expediency.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Dear Mr. DeSantis:

I read your resignation letter to AIG CEO Edward Liddy, which was published in the New York Times on my birthday, 3/24/2009. Having just turned 55, and being currently unemployed and living check to check, I thought you might be interested in my reaction.

The sense of entitlement that you express is absolutely astounding, and beyond the logical comprehension of a lifelong prole such as myself. You state:

I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid…

Excuse me if I don’t choke up with sympathy, Mr. DeSantis. I have no doubt that during your “11 years of dedicated, honorable service”, you were very handsomely rewarded for your efforts, both in salary and past bonuses. I haven’t even googled your name, but I imagine that you live in a very nice home in a prestigious zip code, and that you hold title to at least one or two other vacation homes in equally toney neighborhoods. You probably drive multiple high end, imported vehicles, have multiple tax-sheltered bank accounts and financial instruments, and have never had to make the choice between feeding your family or paying the electric bill or cutting your pills in half to stretch out a medication prescription. It’s probably also safe to assume that you have a hired staff to attend to your family’s many needs and routine, mundane household chores.

So when you say:

I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut…

As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house…

… I have to conclude that my personal sense of outrage over the bonus that you (and your fellow AIG executives) were scheduled to receive was justified. It’s crystal clear that you are disconnected from the social and political reality around you. The gravy train has been running on time for years, but by all appearances, when it ran off the tracks in 2008 your company continued to try and grease the rails for AIG executives who were already riding in first class.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans (including me) who were working as hourly wage slaves or in minimally salaried supervisory roles lost their jobs because of the recklessness of companies like AIG. So now, you resign and whine to your CEO via an editorial in the New York Times?

I’m sorry, but I just can’t feel the love for ya, Jake. As I try to figure out how I’m going to make it to next week, my sympathy meter just isn’t moving in your direction.

If you feel I’m alone in my lack of compassion for your situation, you might want to check out political cartoonist David Rees’ opinion:

Pay me $700,000 a year, or however much the AIG guy whining in today’s New York Times made, and you can threaten me with death all goddamn day. Because do you have any idea how much money that is??? Hell, I’ll let you throw rocks at me. I’ll let you poison my soup. You can slash my tires and spray-paint my driveway. AND ONCE I GET ALL THAT MONEY, I’M TOTALLY PAYING OFF SOME STUDENT LOANS AND FIXING THE GARAGE ROOF AND BUYING SOME NEW PANTS. Because that’s an insane amount of money.

I know, I know, Jake. It’s sad. To folks like you, $700,000 is chump change that can be given away in a fit of angst, and then reclaimed next April as a tax deduction. The unwashed (such as Mr. Rees or myself) just don’t understand. Perhaps you could do a little house shopping in Florida this weekend to sooth your wounded soul.

At the end of the day, though, I thank you for bringing the plight of the perceived injustice you’ve experienced to our collective attention, and I wish you luck in your job search. Sorry I have to cut this short, but maybe I’ll see you down at the local Wal-Mart and we can further discuss your anger. I hear they’re hiring part time stocking help for the night shift, and I need to rush out and get in the application line.

Best regards,

Richard Blair

Thursday, March 26th, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Labor Pains: The Media, the Administration, and the Economy

This year, I’m writing a Labor Day column. With all the layoffs and unemployment, with the blatant anti-labor biases of the current administration and the decisions by the pro-corporate National Labor Relations Board that will linger long into the next administration, next year there may not be much American labor to write about.


Commentary By: Walter Brasch

Once a year, I and a few dozen other reporters and columnists write a Labor Day story. And, like most Americans we don’t remember our history.

We don’t remember that the Knights of Labor created the first Labor Day in 1882 and that Congress made it a national holiday in 1894.

Almost none of us will write about the personalities of the labor movement. About Mother Jones (1830-1930), the militant “angel of the coal fields” for more than six decades. About “Big Bill” Haywood (1869-1928) who organized the Industrial Workers of the World, a universal coalition to fight for the rights of all labor. About cigar-chomping Samuel Gompers (1850-1924), the first president of the American Federation of Labor, a job he held for 38 years.

We won’t be seeing any stories about Sidney Hillman (1887-1946) who led strikes in 1916 to reduce the work week to 48 hours, from the standard 54–60 hours, and then helped create the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) before becoming a major political force for workers during the labor-friendly Roosevelt administration. Missing will be remembrances of Saul Alinsky (1909-1972), known as the “father of grassroots political campaigns” who worked alongside Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) who used Alinsky’s tactics to organize the United Farm Workers.

Hardly any of us remember Heywood Broun (1888-1939), one of the nation’s best-paid columnists who risked his own financial stability to create The Newspaper Guild in 1935 to help those reporters making one-hundredth of his salary. Most reporters never heard about him or the history of the Guild. After all, we may believe that unions are acceptable for factory line workers, but we’re “professionals,” and mistakenly believe we don’t need unions; we’ll just continue to get assigned unpaid overtime and split shifts, while working for low wages, minimal benefits, and without a minimally-accept

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009 by Walter Brasch |

AIG and Goldman Sachs – How We Got Here from There

How screwed are we? It’s worse than you think…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Following my long week of dogging the AIG executive bonus issues, I had planned to spend this day unwinding a little bit. Those plans were made before I spent the morning reading (and digesting) Matt Taibbi’s latest Rolling Stone piece, The Big Takeover.

It’ll take you awhile to read through the article, but after you’re finished, I promise you that you’ll have a better handle on the depth of the financial crisis this country is facing, why Fed chief Ben Bernanke is full of shit when he says “we’ll see the recession coming to an end probably this year”, and who the major players were that got us into this mess.

Here’s your “Marie Antoinette moment” from Taibbi’s investigation:

“We, uh, needed to keep these highly expert people in their seats,” AIG spokeswoman Christina Pretto says to me in early February.

“But didn’t these –highly expert people’ basically destroy your company?” I ask.

Pretto protests, says this isn’t fair. The employees at AIGFP have already taken pay cuts, she says. Not retaining them would dilute the value of the company even further, make it harder to wrap up the unit’s operations in an orderly fashion.

The bonuses are a nice comic touch highlighting one of the more outrageous tangents of the bailout age, namely the fact that, even with the planet in flames, some members of the Wall Street class can’t even get used to the tragedy of having to fly coach. “These people need their trips to Baja, their spa treatments, their hand jobs,” says an official involved in the AIG bailout, a serious look on his face, apparently not even half-kidding. “They don’t function well without them.” [emphasis mine]

Basically, Taibbi says, we’re screwed.

The financial future of this country rests in the hands of a very few people who, ultimately, were at least partly responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place: Bernanke and Geithner, along with their ex-Goldman Sachs minions.

After reading Taibbi’s lengthy piece, it’s clear that there is absolutely no accountability for the strategies that have been put in place to solve the problems. Congress can hold all of the hearings that it desires, but neither Geithner nor Bernanke (or the unilateral policies of Treasury or the Fed) are answerable to congressional oversight.

If, as AIG CEO Edward Liddy claimed on Wednesday, AIG execs who received bonuses are really paying them back, it’s not necessarily because they’re trying to stave off the Marie Antoinette moment that’s at hand (although that could certainly be a motivator), but because whatever bonus money they’re now receiving is literally WAM – walking around money – for these execs. Their bank accounts are already fat from spending your money at the Wall Street casino, and $2 or $3 or $6 million extra dollars just doesn’t mean that much to them.

And no, there aren’t going to be any scraps left at the table for you at the end of the day.

Update: Greenwald puts some wood on this one and hits it out of the park. And confidential to Joe Nocera: your douchebaggery is showing.

Saturday, March 21st, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Lennon / McCartney Address the AIG Concern Trolls

In the current AIG bonus outrage, a face has finally been given to an amorphous economic mess. People are angry, and now they have a target (justified or not) for the vitriol being directed toward our current national circumstances. Radical social change, in the form of revolution, has been spawned from much less.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Earlier today, I posted a link to a New York Times article on the heat that AIG executives are currently feeling. Needless to say, I’m not particularly sympathetic. While I don’t think anyone in the progressive blogosphere is overtly calling for a Marie Antoinette-style social accounting, there’s a certain visceral satisfaction in knowing that the AIG bonus kerfluffle is causing a bit of angst among the upper crust.

The NY Times article implies that AIG execs are scared for their families and children due to anonymous / unsourced “death threats”. That’s completely understandable, if true. However, I find it odd that according to the same article, none of the unidentified execs who’ve expressed this concern have actually contacted their local authorities. Wouldn’t it make sense that if someone were receiving such threats, that they’d be getting on the phone to their local constabulary and demanding that someone in law enforcement investigate the threats? Or that they’d at least be packing for a quick getaway to the house in Aruba for a week or two until the current shitstorm passes?

One other thing that’s caught my interest over the past few days is a variety of comments I’ve read regarding the potential for a populist uprising – AIG bonuses only having been the straw that broke the camel’s back. While some of the comments seem supportive, many of them work a variation on an old Beatles theme: “You say you want a revolution; we’d all like to see the plan.”

The funny thing is, the lyrics to the song, Revolution can be viewed as Lennon and McCartney’s parody answer to the concern trolls of their day. Or not. Pick your interpretation.

In the late 1960′s, at the height of the Vietnam war, The Beatles were trying to tell us something:

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well you know
We all want to change the world…

You say you got a real solution
Well you know
We’d all love to see the plan…

Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were visionaries. We can argue all day (and probably a college semester worth of academic analysis) over the meaning of the lyrics. But if you view the lyrics in terms of current day discourse in internet forums, the words make a lot of sense as applied to the online “want a plan” concern trolls.

There has been no revolution in the course of history, including America’s own revolution in the 18th century, that really had a plan, per se. Revolution, peaceful or otherwise, has always been the spawn of perceived social injustice.

True social change happens because we, the people finally hit a breaking point. Revolutionary incidents just happen – there aren’t flow charts, power point presentations, war gaming, etc. – just a critical mass of pissed off people of regular means who have finally gotten tired of the status quo.

Revolution tends to be preceded by attempts to change the system internally. When those attempts are co-opted from the inside, or fail due to brutal oppression, people start to try to force the desired social change from the margins of society. Incident by incident, the margins start to push toward the center, and if / when momentum for change builds to a rolling boil, either the lid flies off the pot (violent revolution) or cooler heads from both sides reach for the heat controls and turn down the flame via accommodation of grievances.

But let’s be clear: revolution never starts with a plan. It begins with true anger (and disparate incidents) that eventually coalesce into a larger action. When that larger action grows sufficiently to become self-sustaining, change finally happens – and then the power point slides can be developed to map out a path forward.

Revolution is messy and untidy, by lack of an inherent plan or design. Lennon and McCartney parrot today’s concern trolls:

But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be alright…

It’s hard to believe that anyone in a civilized society in 2009 would actually view violent civil unrest as a desirable outcome of social injustice, and we can all hope that it will never come to such a conclusion. But many years ago, long before the Beatles pressed their first vinyl, Thomas Jefferson expressed a “natural law” that even Clarence Thomas could get behind:

…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…

We’ve reached a point of national self-examination where it’s time to truly reconsider the direction we’re heading, and America’s contribution to global society.

Barack Obama was elected president on a platform of step-change, not incremental improvements. The 2006 congressional tidal wave that carried over to 2008 was born from the same desire. I opined many months ago that to affect real change, Obama had to be willing to be a one term president, and totally dismantle the status quo, no matter how loud the howls from the right wing oligarchs.

That’s the first stage of revolution described above: where attempts need to be made to work from the inside. And that’s OK, as far as it goes. If Obama is not willing to take the chances, and is not willing to be a one term president, then it’s easy to imagine that the margins will start to push on the outside of the envelope. That’s when it gets ugly.

We can all hope and pray that the need for such a radical social overhaul will never become so black and white, because there will always be charismatic (and less desirable) potential leaders ready to fill the void from the margins. The end result could be truly less desirable. Unfortunately, that is exactly the outcome that our government and its corporate benefactors seem to be courting.

Some days, it’s almost like they’re daring us.

Friday, March 20th, 2009 by Richard Blair |
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