prospect.org — Over a century ago, progressive reformers were deeply worried about how wealthy interests had hijacked American politics populating state legislatures with cronies who did as they were told and otherwise steamrolled the will of the people. To level the playing field, reformers worked to create mechanisms for direct democracy through state referendum and ballot initiatives, allowing voters to bypass corrupted political systems. Now, in a classic case of unintended consequences, these mechanisms for popular power are routinely used by the rich to change state laws—or try to, anyway. Regardless of what the rich want, the ability of a single wealthy person to wield so much influence over a state's political agenda is disturbing. And this year it is worse than ever, with more than a 170 ballot initiatives before voters in November.
Mitt Romney's "binder full of women" comment has gone viral, which is pretty entertaining but has had the unfortunate side effect of crowding the phrase "wind jobs." That's a real loss, because that term could become a very useful part of our political vocabulary. more »
salon.com — For many months, writers, commentators, economists and activists have argued that the student loan industry looks all too much like the subprime mortgage industry did on the brink of its collapse. On Tuesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau admitted the same again. According to the government watchdog’s annual report, “Student loan borrower stories of detours and dead ends with their servicers bear an uncanny resemblance to problematic practices uncovered in the mortgage servicing business.” The student lending practices directly mimic the risky lending underpinning the housing crisis: private lenders giving out loans without considering whether borrowers would repay, then bundling and reselling the loans to investors to avoid losing money when students default.
thedailybeast.com — Bain Capital is a product of the Great Deformation. It has garnered fabulous winnings through leveraged speculation in financial markets that have been perverted and deformed by decades of money printing and Wall Street coddling by the Fed. So Bain’s billions of profits were not rewards for capitalist creation; they were mainly windfalls collected from gambling in markets that were rigged to rise. Nevertheless, Mitt Romney claims that his essential qualification to be president is grounded in his 15 years as head of Bain Capital, from 1984 through early 1999. Except Mitt Romney was not a businessman; he was a master financial speculator who bought, sold, flipped, and stripped businesses. That is the modus operandi of the leveraged-buyout business, and in an honest free-market economy, there wouldn’t be much scope for it because it creates little of economic value.
creators.com — Today, for the first time, I am officially notifying the honchos of Bain Capital, Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and other big-time private equity funds that I am available. My little company, Saddle Burr Productions, can be had. For a price. I publish this notice in response to a recent news item revealing that these firms have a unique and perplexing problem: They have too much money on hand. In all, they're holding a cool trillion dollars that super-rich speculators, banks and others have entrusted to them. Private equity funds are corporate predators that borrow huge sums from these richies, using the cash to buy out targeted corporations, dismantle them and sell off the parts to make a fat profit for the investors and themselves. The problem is that, under the rules of this high-stakes casino game, the firms have to spend their borrowed money by a set time — or give it back. And the clock is ticking.
guardian.co.uk — This weekend, the British labor movement will be marching in London for a future that works. Two weeks later, in the United States millions of workers and their unions will be mobilizing for our national election in critical states such as Ohio, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. These mobilizations may not seem surprising, but behind them lies a serious rethinking of the economic and political strategy on labor issues in both countries. It was the UK and the U.S. that gave birth to the economic ideas and the financial practices that led to the global economic crisis. Five years into the crisis, workers in both countries have paid a terrible price through lost jobs and incomes, while the incomes and assets of the wealthiest in both countries have largely recovered to their pre-crisis levels. But we have learned a few things from this experience.
thenation.com — Here’s a piece of unadulterated good news: At a meeting of European Union finance ministers last week, eleven European Countries agreed to support a financial transaction tax. It’s the latest step in the truly heartening rise of a much-needed common sense reform. It’s high time that U.S. progressives take heed, and draw inspiration. I’ve argued before that a financial transaction tax is a win-win: raising revenue to avert austerity, while discouraging speculation to avert the next Wall Street-induced disaster. On this issue, fortunately, the momentum is all on the good guys’ side. Last month, Congressman Keith Ellison introduced a great FTT bill for America. The news from Europe should strengthen its momentum, for reasons abstract and concrete.
thenation.com — Illinois Senator Dick Durbin was not planning to be at Obama’s side for today’s final round of debate preparation. Rather, Durban was headed back home to Illinois for a meeting with workers at the Sensata Technologies plant in Freeport, where 170 employees are slated to lose their jobs to outsourcing before the end of the year. Sensata is precisely the sort of high-tech operation that a country looking to compete in the global economy of the 21st century would want to maintain as a domestic manufacturer. So why are the jobs moving to China? Because Bain Capital owns the company, and Bain is committed to the industrial development of Chinese provinces – not to states like Illinois. That’s not what most Americans would identify as a smart choice for the nation’s future – let alone “economic patriotism.” But that is how Bain, which got its operating ethos from former CEO Mitt Romney, operates.
huffingtonpost.com — While much of the country is focused on the presidential race, the Wall Street gang is waging a different battle; they are preparing an assault on Social Security and Medicare. This attack is not exactly secret, but the drive is nonetheless taking place behind closed doors. The corporate honchos are not expecting to convince the public that we should support cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They know this is a hopeless task. Huge majorities of people across the political spectrum strongly support these programs. Instead they hope that they can use their power of persuasion, coupled with the power of campaign contributions and the power of high-paying jobs for defeated members of Congress, to get Congress to approve large cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other key programs. This is the plan for a grand bargain that the corporate chieftains hope can be struck in the lame duck Congress.