Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012
“These elected officials spend 30-70 percent of their time fundraising, and they are highly, shall we say, responsive when Big Money talks”

We pay a lot of money for health care in the United States, more per capita than anywhere else in the industrialized world. If you point out this inescapable fact to opponents of socialized medicine, they invariably respond that we get high-quality care in return. Exasperated, you might go further and say that spending nearly $8,000 a year per capita still leaves us with the 8th-lowest average life expectancy among OECD countries, that the Japanese spend $5,000 less per person per year and live longer. But rich foreigners flock to the United States for operations, your interlocutor insists, so clearly we get what we pay for. The uninsured, alas, would agree with this grim assessment – since they have little to no money, they get little to no care.

Americans also spend more per capita on the military than any other industrialized country (the United Arab Emirates, with a population of only 7 million people, is the only country with a higher rate). The Pentagon and its clients boast that all this money is well spent, that no country comes close to us in terms of quality or quantity of security. Critics, meanwhile, decry the waste, the cost overruns, the systems that work poorly (the F-35) or will never work (missile defense), and of course the enormous opportunity costs.

On health care and the military budget, no one can dispute that the United States spends exorbitantly. Whether we get our money’s worth is a matter of considerable debate.

But there is one arena in which the United States is a world-class spender where you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would argue that we get world-class results for our money. I’m talking ...

Published: Monday 21 May 2012
“People who entrust hard-earned money to bankers who pay them less than one percent on cash savings, assess a proliferating variety of fees for dubious services, and foreclose on unemployed homeowners who can’t meet the monthly installments on undocumented loans the banks should never have made in the first place.”

Here's how it works.  You give your nest egg to a band of Wall Street crooks with a name that starts with initials like "J.P." or perhaps one with the word "Gold" in it.  They play Russian Roulette with your life.  Got it?  That's all you need to know about the sleazy side of corporate capitalism in the New Derivative Economy.  The other side of capitalism, the side that isn't sleazy, is receding faster than you can say "Jamie Dimon".    

 

Can high finance get any lower?  Stay tuned; if it can, it will.  That's because there's nothing to prevent the same bunch of rogue "risk managers" from pulling the same shenanigans and hijacking the hopes along with the savings and pensions of millions of people.  People who entrust hard-earned money to bankers who pay them less than one percent on cash savings, assess a proliferating variety of fees for dubious services, and foreclose on unemployed homeowners who can't meet the monthly installments on undocumented loans the banks should never have made in the first place.  The very same bandit bankers who have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they cannot, in fact, be trusted with anybody else's money.

 

The mythological "free market" is not free.  It is a slave to the stock market which is manipulated and, indeed, exploited by investment bankers, fund managers, and a new breed of free-booting financial con artists.  Remember Enron?  The late Kenneth Lay?  His partner in crime, the convicted co-swindler, Jeffrey Skilling, now serving a very long prison sentence?  How about Bernie Madoff, the Ponzi scheme pirate?  Big time financial fraudsters who were finally brought down.  Now try to name a single profiteering peddler of toxic assets who has been indicted for similar crimes since the ...

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