US Political Financial Reform Suggestions

April 6, 2010


Why the Fight for Financial Reform Needs to Get Much More Personal


Yet, when it comes to selling financial reform, Democrats are making the same mistake all over again. The nuts and bolts of the legislation — which are even harder for the public to get its head around than they were with health care — are being given a full airing in Congress, on op-ed pages and blogs, and on TV. And these devilish details — capital requirement levels, proprietary trading restrictions, the independence of the proposed consumer financial protection agency, etc., etc. — are critical. They are critical because it was getting them wrong that promoted the devastation in people’s lives we now see around the country. But the human element is once again getting short shrift.

This is a big-time blunder. Ask the proverbial men and women on the street where they stand on the Volcker Rule, and watch their eyes glaze over. The administration needs to make it clear: we don’t need to overhaul our financial system because the Wall Street sandbox has gotten a little messy, and bank CEO bonuses have gotten too big. We need to overhaul our financial system to make sure that system isn’t rigged to destroy the lives of millions of middle class Americans who worked hard, played by the rules, and ended up holding the short end of the stick when the big banks drove our economy over the edge of the cliff… Read more by Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post

This is a great and thoroughly realistic appraisal of the US political situation — and the perpetuated Democratic mistakes — combined with sound suggestions aiming at what the administration ought to do better.

Supplementary: Global Haplifnet – vanguard topics

 haplif – Frank Kalder (HuffPost profile/comments)


Barack Obama’s first State of the Union speech

January 28, 2010


Excerpt – For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don’t understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn’t, or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can’t afford it. Not now.

So we face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope what they deserve is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences, to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories and different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills, a chance to get ahead. Most of all, the ability to give their children a better life.

You know what else they share? They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids, starting businesses and going back to school. They’re coaching Little League and helping their neighbors. As one woman wrote me, ”We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged.”

It is because of this spirit, this great decency and great strength that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit. We do not allow fear or division to break our spirit. In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency, that embodies their strength… Full text at New York Times

HuffPost comment (excerpt):

While most State of the Union speeches have a bit of a kitchen-sink feel to them, this one seemed particularly so with its blink-and-you-missed-it mentions of “earmark reform” and cracking “down on violations of equal pay laws — so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work.” It felt less like an overriding vision for the country, and more like an attempt to deliver at least one applause line for every constituency in the country.

That’s not political leadership. Obama clearly understands this. It’s why he ended his speech by mocking politicians who “do what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.” And he just as clearly has the ability to articulate a bold vision for the nation and lead it where it desperately needs to go… By Arianna Huffington

haplif – Frank Kalder (Global Haplifnet)

Banking – huge, growing chasm between the fortunes …

December 30, 2009


Move Your Money: A New Year’s Resolution by Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post  

Last week, over a pre-Christmas dinner, the two of us, along with political strategist Alexis McGill, filmmaker/author Eugene Jarecki, and Nick Penniman of the HuffPost Investigative Fund, began talking about the huge, growing chasm between the fortunes of Wall Street banks and Main Street banks, and started discussing what concrete steps individuals could take to help create a better financial system. Before long, the conversation turned practical, and with some help from friends in the world of bank analysis, a video and website were produced devoted to a simple idea: Move Your Money.

The big banks on Wall Street, propped up by taxpayer money and government guarantees, have had a record year, making record profits while returning to the highly leveraged activities that brought our economy to the brink of disaster… Read more at HuffPost

“Administrators to Lehman Brothers’ European arm will soon be able to start returning $11bn (£7bn) of client assets trapped in the bank since its collapse after yesterday winning support for a distribution plan .

The agreement is a milestone in the unwinding of the bank’s operations. Policymakers are watching the process with a view to reforms that would avoid a repeat of the turmoil triggered by Lehman’s collapse…” (Financial Times, UK, Dec 30)

Indeed, Arianna, those “too big to fail” banks (JP Morgan/Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America) may gamble with their own money. Surely, of course, we’d be better off – and safer – if big banks turned into smaller ones.

 Supplementary: Global Haplifnet – vanguard topics

haplif – Frank Kalder (HuffPost profile/comments)

HuffPost’s U.S. Health Care Reform Sifting

December 11, 2009


Health Care Reform: Sifting Through the Suboptimal Solutions*

Referring to such previous topic mentions –  e.g. in August  –  I agree with you, Arianna, that it will be a suboptimal solution worth supporting those elements you described if the final bill did contain them. Yes, indeed, the U.S. broken system got to be fixed.  

The aim “we can get back to being a country able to produce optimal responses to our biggest problems” may then be achieved. 

haplif – Frank Kalder (HuffPost profile/comments)

Supplementary: Global Haplifnet – vanguard topics

– – –

*) by Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief, Huffington Post

Barack Obama’s Rhetoric vs. Wall Street Reality

September 15, 2009


Why Obama Won’t Be Able to Reform Wall Street – Excerpt –

As a result, Obama’s rhetoric has not been matched by reality. In his speech today, the president claimed that the actions of his administration have “spurred lending” and “helped responsible homeowners refinance to stem the tide of lost homes and lost home values.”

But, in truth, credit for Main Street is still very hard to come by, and only 12 percent of eligible homeowners have had their mortgages modified by the president’s home ownership plan. Meanwhile cramdown legislation remains lobbyist roadkill (though Barney Frank is vowing to revive it this fall) and mandatory mediation between homeowners and lenders prior to foreclosure is going nowhere on a national level.

That’s why I could picture all the heads of the big banks sitting there today, listening to Obama and smiling — knowing that, in the end, his claim that his administration is “proposing the most ambitious overhaul of the financial system since the Great Depression” won’t mean anything as long as Wall Street’s relentless lobbying and contributing continue to hold sway in the control room of the S.S. America. Read the entire Sep 14 Arianna Hufflington blog

Although I’m a supporter of Barack Obama’s policy, generally (“Yes, we can!”), I assent to Arianna’s appraisement “ultimately naïve speech on financial reform” referring to the full text.

In particular, Obama

also urged support for the far-reaching changes to financial regulation that he has proposed. These include creating a new agency with broad powers to protect consumers of financial products such as mortgages, giving the Federal Reserve new powers to oversee risks to the overall financial system, and obligating firms to meet stronger capital and liquidity requirements… Read more at Washington Post; VIDEO embedded

Addendum, Sep 16

U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for concrete action at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh Sept. 24-25. (Helene Fouquet, Bloomberg)

 Supplementary: Global Haplifnet – vanguard topics 

haplif – Frank Kalder (HuffPost profile/comments)

The US bailout – and the consolidation isn’t yet over

September 1, 2009


Has Obama’s Handling of the Bank Bailout Undermined Health Care Reform?


Two days after Senator Kennedy’s death, and thus not given much attention, there was a shocking piece in the Washington Post about how America’s “too-big-to-fail” banks have gotten even bigger since the meltdown. Four banks (Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citi) now issue 50 percent of America’s mortgages and control two-thirds of the nation’s credit cards. According to FDIC chair Sheila Blair, this kind of consolidation of power “fed the crisis, and it has gotten worse because of the crisis.”

And the consolidation isn’t over. As WaPo‘s David Cho points out, these mega-banks now get even more favorable treatment from creditors because the creditors know the banks will be bailed out by taxpayers if they take on too much risk. This favorable treatment includes lower borrowing costs than other banks are able to get. This, in turn, will put even more of these smaller banks out of business, furthering the concentration of wealth and power. And Democrats are ceding the populist field of trust busting to Republicans.

Though the big four banks have all recently announced multi-billion dollar profits (with a bottom line handsomely padded by all of us), three dozen smaller banks have gone under in the last two months… Read more  (Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post) 

It’s pretty much a same bailout / banking / credit squeeze situation as we encounter it these days in Europe, e.g., in Germany, to a lesser extent, though. 

 Supplementary: Global Haplifnet – vanguard topics

haplif – Frank Kalder (HuffPost profile/comments)

Obama’s Leadership Style & Healthcare Reform

August 25, 2009


To drop the currently prevailing delusional notion appears to be a presidential need taking into account that there is practically no ‘perfect plan’ to make everybody happy – neither the insurance companies and PhRMA nor the rather confused US citizens.*

Two Excerpts

Lessons in Leadership: Why Obama Needs to Brush Up on His FDR

(1) Of course, even if Obama were to summon his formidable grassroots army, as he attempted to do last week, exactly what is it they would be rallying around when knocking on doors or holding house parties? We’ve heard the mantra that the president wants “choice and competition.” But how does he intend to do that? Specifically. He’s been way too fuzzy — and foxy — on the fundamentals, with his administration delivering mixed messages from the very beginning.

Instead of laying out his vision for reform in unequivocal strokes — drawing clear lines in the sand on what he will and won’t accept in a bill — Obama’s plan is apparently whatever Charles Grassley and Max Baucus and Kent Conrad will accept. The president “guaranteed” he’ll get reform done. But we’re not worried that there will be no bill to which Obama affixes his signature. We’re worried that the bill will be the equivalent of a Social Security bill containing Clark’s poison pill amendment. And we are even more worried that the president will sign it, declare victory, and move on. […]

(2) During the campaign, Obama frequently said that this wasn’t about him, but about all of us. That’s true, but we’re now at a juncture where it actually is about him.

The president has the leadership skills to reclaim this debate and take it directly to the American people, sidestepping — or running over, if need be — those who have decided to stand in the way of real change. Read more (Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post) 

* Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)

Supplementary: Global Haplifnet Compilations 

Amendment, Sep 4:

 – My HuffPost comment to “Disease Mongering: Good For Big Pharma, Bad For You” by Dr. Andrew Weil  

 – US Healthcare and Education Issues


haplif – Frank Kalder (HuffPost profile/comments)