Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Find Me The Money


Gadfly
by Mort Malkin

Find Me The Money

President Obama plans not only to chew gum while walking, but also to: solve the financial crisis (basically using the same model of banking that got us into the fix we are in), establish universal health care (using the same crazy quilt of public and private insurance we now have), reduce greenhouse gases and global heating (using subsidized “clean” coal and nuclear power along with unaided clean/green technologies), and financing college education for all who want it (with student loans floated by banks who get a nice, fat commission — OK, a few Pell grants,too). Where will he find the money?

The Gadfly Revelry & Research gang did some brain storming, and out of their undisciplined thought and high spirits came a few ways to find the money. The President is looking everywhere, even sending Secretary of State Clinton to Russia and China. Russia has large oil & gas reserves and a few extra wolves and bears to replace those that Sarah Palin shoots on her airplane hunts. China and the US have a one way import-export relationship. We get stuff from China; The Chinese get US Treasury bonds. The Chinese, for all the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of promissory paper they hold, feel entitled to lecture us profligates a little. They advise getting rid of 90% of the derivatives — the mirror images of mirror images of real goods — that Goldman Sachs & co-conspirators invented. They suggest that investment banks should be limited to 5 to 1 leverage, not the 30 to 1 that brought the financial raff down so fast. They say take the troops back from their foreign adventures and demobilize them, saving billions. Talk to the Chinese and Middle Easterners — be nice to the people who lend you money.

The Bush-Cheney (B-C) Administration’s way was to project military power and engender fear, not to be nice. In the Obama Administration, Hillary thanked the Chinese publicly for buying US Treasuries. She failed to charm them. Just recently, the Chinese Number One Banker proposed creating a New Reserve Currency for international trading and lending — something like the IMF Special Drawing Rights based on a basket of several currencies. A world currency? Actually there once was one — it was called gold. Why is everyone worried about the dollar? Right there on every dollar bill it says “In God we trust.” Maybe we should add Confucius, Lao Tsu, and Buddha. The Russians were equally cold to Hillary’s charms. She gave their Foreign Minister a gift of a box with a red button which she thought said “Reset” in Russian. He pointed out that the correct translation was “overload.” At least it didn’t say Panic.

The GRR gang says there’s plenty of green in our own backyard:

$ The President can start with rescinding the Bush tax cuts for the richest of Americans. Right now, no waiting for the tax cuts to expire.
$ Then, the Seniors whose yearly income is above $200,000 don’t need Social Security help.
$ Workers younger than 65 years have a Social Security tax deducted from their paychecks up to earnings of $100,000. Let’s double that limit, or just make all earnings subject to Social Security taxes.
$ Capital gains taxes — for all those who make money while they sleep — are now only 15%, far less than taxes of workers who put in 40 hours a week making actual goods in factories. 25% would be more equitable (the E word).
$ The stock exchanges buy & sell a few billion shares a day. A tiny tax on every transaction will hardly be noticed, but a billion times a little times the number of trading days per year adds up to real money.
$ The TARP funds (Troubled [toxic] Asset Relief Program) that have been or will be given to any bank-investment house-insurance company can be measured against the company’s stock value. Then, if the government (we taxpayers) owns 51%, the FDIC Chair, Sheila Bair, can fire the executives and we can run the company. She has FDIC staffers who are more competent and way more ethical. They can bring the banking-investment-insurance companies into the black and sell them for a profit.
$ Oil and Gas companies need no tax breaks. Exxon netted over $45 billion last year, even with the millions they are still reluctantly paying to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
$ Coal fired power plants — over 50% of US electricity is so produced — are responsible for over a billion tons of CO2 a year. A healthy tax per ton can produce a balanced budget. But don’t get any ideas. We should be closing old plants, not building new coal plants.
$ Medicare costs can be reduced by allowing/requiring negotiation with Big Pharma for reasonable prescription drugs prices under Medicare Part D. The drug companies are willing to negotiate with the Canadian Health System. Is the US a second class world citizen?
$ Medicare can start a primary preventive medicine (health education) program across the country. Barack sets a fine example for fitness and Michelle promotes organic foods. A healthy lifestyle can reduce chronic disease by 70%. 70% less heart disease, hypertension, diabetes … will save oodles of money.
$ Obama can create a rescue package with his athletic ability. He is a super star and can attract crowds to fill a sports arena at the drop of a three pointer. He and Attorney Eric Holder could put on an exhibition of field goal shooting mixed in with dribbling and passing demonstrations. Barack in gym shorts would attract not only male basketball fans, but female Obama buffs. Also, an administration team could challenge the Harlem Globetrotters to a series of fun & games around the country. Ticket sales would be brisk, and tv rights would be worth millions.

The above list is a sampling. It does not even include the bonuses to executives at the banks that took TARP money. In government as in banking, we need a few good people who have a high moral sense as well as the ability to invent things such as credit default swaps.

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