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by Dean Baker
As we passed the fifth anniversary of the peak of the financial crisis this fall, the giant insurance company AIG was prominently featured in the retrospectives. AIG had issued hundreds of billions of dollars of credit default swaps (CDS) on subprime mortgage backed securities. When these mortgage-backed securities failed en masse, AIG didn't have the money to back them up.
This would have forced AIG into bankruptcy. However Lehman had declared bankruptcy the day before and the world was still engulfed in the aftershocks. The Bush administration and the Federal Reserve board decided that they would stop the cascade of failing financial institutions and bail out AIG. As a result, the government agreed to honor all the CDS issued by AIG and effectively became the owner of the company.
by David Cay Johnson
Anyone in a public-sector job looking forward to retiring in comfort should look carefully at what is going on in Detroit and Springfield, Ill. Sherlock Holmes would call it the case of the missing pension money.
News leaking out this week from the Motor City tells how the enormous gap between the pensions workers earned and the money set aside to pay for them will be closed. By stealing from the workers.
Courts, legislatures, and corporations are all working in concert not to pay the full benefits owed. For decades, political and business leaders failed to set aside the right amount of money each payday to cover the pensions workers earned and, in some cases, covered up the mismanagement of pension fund investments.
This is nothing short of theft, as pensions are simply deferred wages, that is, money that workers could have taken as cash in their regular paychecks had they not opted to set it aside.
by John Atcheson
Within the next few weeks, as the budget and deficit ceiling deadlines come closer, conservatives will start unleashing their five standard economic bogeymen so they can call for austerity budgets. Let’s examine their bogeymen, one by one.
Bogeyman number 1: The deficit is exploding and needs to be reined in.
Fact: The deficit is shrinking. Deficit hawks and austerity mongers raise the specter of debts and deficits as if we were in uncharted territory. In fact, we are, but not the territory they warn about. Within the last year and a half, the US deficit has been shrinking faster than at any time since World War II. In fact, one reason our economic recovery has been so anemic is the collapse of public spending, at a time when banks and corporations are shipping money overseas, playing bingo on Wall Street with our money, and hoarding it for CEO bonuses and other non-productive uses.
by Dean Baker
A widely held view in elite circles is that the rapid rise in inequality in the United States over the last three decades is an unfortunate side-effect of technological progress. In this story, technology has had the effect of eliminating tens of millions of middle wage jobs for factory workers, bookkeepers, and similar occupations.
These were jobs where people with limited education used to be able to raise a family with a middle class standard of living. However computers, robots and other technological innovations are rapidly reducing the need for such work. As a result, the remaining jobs in these sectors are likely to pay less and many people who would have otherwise worked at middle wage jobs must instead crowd into the lower paying sectors of the labor market.
by George Lakoff
The NY Times has many virtues and some important flaws. Both were evident on the paper's front page this week and there is a lot to be learned by what did and did not appear there.
For decades, Republican conservatives have constructed and carried out extensive, well-planned, long-term communication campaigns to change public discourse and the way the public thinks. It has been done very effectively and, for the most part, not secretly. The NY Times finally began reporting on this effort on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in a fine piece by Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg.
The Times reported on the House Republicans' memo on how to attack the Affordable Care Act through a "multilayered sequence assault," gathering stories "through social media letters from constituents, or meeting back home" and a new GOP website. The Times also reported on the "closed door" strategy sessions, going back to last year.
One more story demonstrating the low standard of accountability police are held to in Illinois.
by Norman Solomon
Ever since the first big revelations about the National Security Agency five months ago, Dianne Feinstein has been in overdrive to defend the surveillance state. As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she generates an abundance of fog, weasel words, anti-whistleblower slander and bogus notions of reform -- while methodically stabbing civil liberties in the back.
Feinstein’s powerful service to Big Brother, reaching new heights in recent months, is just getting started. She’s hard at work to muddy all the waters of public discourse she can -- striving to protect the NSA from real legislative remedies while serving as a key political enabler for President Obama’s shameless abuse of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.
Outrage and denunciations are following reports out of the UK which show that the British government has labeled the husband of journalist Glenn Greenwald a "terrorist" for allegedly possessing leaked NSA documents while passing through London's Heathrow Airport earlier this year.
by Howard Friel
by Juan Cole
The revelation from the Snowden Papers that the National Security Agency had German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone under surveillance has produced a central fallout. Dueling leaks over the international embarrassment have forced the White House to a key admission: President Barack Obama did not know what the NSA was up to.
Ever since the Snowden revelations of the massive, world-girdling extent of NSA electronic surveillance surfaced, I have been wondering two things: Did they tell Obama about it when they took office in 2009? And, do they have something on Obama?
Outgoing NSA head Keith Alexander or his circle leaked to German tabloid Bild am Sonntag that Alexander had told Obama about the tap on Merkel’s personal phone in 2010 and that Obama asked for more information on Merkel at that time.