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Home country: USA
Current location: Not disclosed
Member since: Mon Apr 28, 2014, 07:28 PM
Number of posts: 14,219

About Me

Counselor, economist and public servant.

Journal Archives

Why Bernie's transaction tax to fund free education for our kids is a GOOD idea.

WARNING: We'll be getting a bit wonky here...and if you're a big stocks & bonds person forgive me for being basic.

Here's the real deal about the transaction tax:

Since the deregulation of Wall Street, investment houses, banks and insurance companies can now all 'play' the market, meaning they can speculate using other people's money on things like derivative bundles, which are very risky. So, there are two things about this tax that actually are a good idea:

First, think of all the people you might listen to for investment advice. They will generally tell you to 'buy and hold' but the real money is made once schmucks like us lay down their money and buy shares. Because the big house holding our shares for us can make money from trading them every day and we'll never know the difference.

OK, now that we've established that, how do they do it? Well, the big houses all have 'bots. These 'bots are basically computer programs that buy and sell securities (stocks) and commodity futures so the investment house can realize an incremental profit from arbitrage. Let me explain. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for instance, is located on - you guessed it - Wall Street. The big houses have 'seats' on this exchange (and others). So each big house sends traders to the floor of the exchange and they basically yell at each other all day making trades. Seriously. I've seen this on video and it looks like the most hellish job that ever was...utterly without any existential meaning...

Anyway, for each transaction there is an 'ask' price and a 'sell' price. Usually they are very close, in the tenths of a penny difference. But when shares in a company are moving down or up, there's a real opportunity, if they do it really fast, to make a narrow profit on the difference between 'ask' and 'sell' prices. This is called arbitrage. For instance if a company bought 100,000 shares of X at $10.00 a minute ago, but now the 'sell' price is $10.01, the 'bot will signal a 'sell' order and in nanoseconds the trade will be complete - 100,000 shares of X bought a minute ago at $10, and sold just now at $10.01 per share for an arbitrage profit on that one trade of $1,000.

Thousands of these transactions take place per minute, and as I say, schmucks like us don't have any clue. All we did was buy the stocks, and then years later when we sell them we will have to pay a 'capital gain' tax on the difference in what we paid way back when (the basis) and what we sold it for. But all this time the company where we have our trading account has made thousands of dollars in profit trading up and down the whole time. In fact, the 'volume' (total number of trades) on the exchange is inflated because of these 'bots, and the market (value of stocks) can actually be artificially changed by all these trades. So, instead of the market moving on the value the companies behind the stocks re actually creating, it moves based on a bunch of greedy traders trying to suck the uttermost drop of blood.

Scummy, right? I mean, there's just something that feels dirty about that - almost like a sucker eating scum from the bottom of a pond just to eke out that final few pennies of profit.

Bernie's tax wouldn't affect that this happens - we'd just be collecting a tiny tax on each transaction. This is the money he wants to use to pay for free college at state schools to the bachelor's level. Great for our kids and only a microscopic reduction in profit for companies that are already like giant bloated mosquitoes that are ready to explode from sucking too much blood.

OK....now here's the second reason, the one that actually affects pension funds:

Second, as if the above isn't enough, the big exchanges gamble even MORE aggressively with our money without us ever knowing. Their method of choice is the derivative bundle. Basically, a derivative is a 'contract that derives its value from the performance of an underlying entity. This underlying entity can be an asset, index, or interest rate, and is often called the "underlying."'

So, how does this egregious scum sucking look on the ground? Let's take the example above. Because hey, $1,000 every few seconds isn't anything right? Just chump change for these greed heads. What if the quantitative analysts for the big trading house decide stock for company X is a winner long term.

They can make money off this two ways:

1. They can bundle it as a derivative package with other 'winners' and sell it to other investors at a price that takes into account the estimated 'win' amount. So the investors put up money that belongs to other people, usually, and buy this bet that these stocks as a group are all going to go up Z amount. Since they bought it for Z-Y, they stand to make Y profit on the bundle. And, if the stock does BETTER than Z then they will make even more. Now the funny thing about derivatives is that that's all they are, just bets. You aren't buying anything really, you're just putting money into a big slot machine.

Because if the stock doesn't go up enough to cover your cost, then the derivative owner is upside down. This is what happened to Lehman Brothers in 2008, basically.

So how does this affect pensions? Well the company that holds your pension may have 'enjoyed' this nice deregulation, so now they can REALLY gamble...with your money. Now, and here's the nuance...it would be OK if they sold derivatives to other investors based on what they think will happen with YOUR money because that way you wouldn't lose your money even of those bets went bad.

But.......................oh SHIT!

What if the company that holds your pension mortgages the value of the pension and uses your money to buy derivatives from someone else???

Oh, oh.

And then, what if those bets go south? Well, that company has to use other assets to cover the value of your pension, and if they can't then YOU lose YOUR money. Bernie's tax on these transactions MIGHT prevent the big houses that make these arbitrage trades every nanosecond from moving the market artificially quite so much. And it certainly would stop most of this kind of arbitrage trading with bundled derivatives.

See, this is why Bernie is so RIGHT. He wants to reinstate Glass-Steagall, which basically says, hey, if you're a commercial bank then you can only do X. If you're an investment bank then you can only do Y. If you are an insurance company, you can only do Z. This is why Wall Street is so fucked up and immoral...well, one reason.

The other reason is the Fed. See, people think the Fed is 'quasi' governmental. Bullshit. The Fed is primarily owned by two big banks: JP Morgan Chase and Citibank. So this national debt? It's money we owe to ourselves. So why are we paying interest on that money to Wall Street?

What pisses me off, just burns me is that NONE of these slimeballs like Jamie Diamon have gone to trial let alone jail for their fucked up betting that ruined so many lives.

Last, cause this was a long post, let me say that if you are a working American, you should be for Bernie, period, because our interests have NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING in common with those of the greed heads on Wall Street.

You can tell the quality of a candidate by that candidate's enemies.

Let us consider Bernie Sanders.

He is sort of a New Deal candidate whose platform is extremely appealing to most Americans.

Unfortunately, Bernie's message is anathema to the more conservative 'Third Way' wing of the Democratic party, which pretty much holds all the power. The reason is they, like their Republican counterparts across the aisle, are beholden to many corporate and special interests:

-Big oil and coal companies are frightened of Bernie because he has said global warming is the biggest threat we face.

-The military industrial complex is uneasy with Bernie, because they are afraid he'll cut funding for unnecessary stuff. They also don't appreciate him wanting to spend money on rebuilding our outdated and crumbling infrastructure because they believe, correctly that this will cut into their profits.

-Multinational corporations and international bankers dislike Bernie because he is against the Trans Pacific Partnership, which in effect would cost western nations millions of jobs and undermine democracy at all levels. Some see TPP as being the power elite's 'move' to take power from nation states and create a corporate government.

-Wall Street dislikes Bernie because he wants to re-instate Glass-Steagall and generally tighten up regulations.

-Health insurance companies and big pharma hate Bernie because they are on the ACA (Obamacare) gravy-train, and what is ACA but a giant Heritage Foundation corporate welfare program? Bernie is calling for single payer healthcare, and for the government to use it's vast buying power to drive costs down.

-The NRA doesn't like Bernie much because he's called for a differentiated approach - less gun control in rural areas and more in urban ones. Since the NRA represents merchants of death far more than its rank and file membership, his position is, again, anathema to them.

-Big corporations and billionaires dislike Bernie because he wants to raise their taxes and adjust the corporate tax code so companies can't so easily 'offshore' income and profits without paying taxes at all. This is a $20 trillion + problem for the US Treasury. The other reason they don't like Bernie is because he wants to remove the Social Security payroll tax cap and actually expand the program, and again, any benefit to Americans through social programs is seen as a danger to profits.

-K-Street lobbyists don't like Bernie because he wants to overturn Citizens United and impose government funded elections. The corporate owned news media doesn't like this because it will reduce their election year profits from overpriced commercials.

There's more, but that's enough to illustrate my point.

Now, to your question. Wasserman Schultz and the DNC is firmly in Clinton's camp because Clinton is the establishment candidate. The media, which is corporate-owned is downplaying or downright ignoring Bernie. Polls paid for by establishment sources are purposely skewing in favor of Clinton. Post debate feedback showing Bernie coming out on top is being deleted from media websites.

Basically, the only people who like Bernie are ordinary people, because every single plank of his platform is favored by a majority of Americans. I believe very strongly that Bernie is the ONLY candidate running that actually cares about me or my family, and I know his policies will make my life better.

So there you have the answer, or at least AN answer from the perspective of one person. Iím not alone though. And one other thing:

To all Bernie supporters Ė we know the quality of our candidate by his enemies. Thatís why Bernie needs all of us as friends!

Notes from the Outside....

That is, outside of sites that cater to political junkies and wonks like us. Here's a little conversation I had with a kid that has probably never heard of DU but goes on Reddit and Twitter all the time. A kid who has probably never been polled because he lives at his parents house because of high student loans:

I went to my local Walgreens to buy some Wal-Act nasal tablets. A handsome young millennial helped me, and I commented how irritating it is that the only thing that works to clear me up is regulated by the DEA.

He said, well there are people who do buy this illegally, and I said I was happy pot is being legalized and wished all drugs could be decriminalized.

He said, yeah that doesn't help me. I live at home because I can't afford my own place.

I said, that sounds like a student loan problem. That's why I'm for Bernie.

He answered, yeah I love that guy.

I said, then caucus for him, because for once I want my tax dollars used for something that benefits people like free college and single payer.

He nodded and I said, he needs us there because it's gonna be a fight.

He agreed and we left it at that.

That, my friends (and not-friends) is why I've got this iceberg on my signature line.

Announcing new DNC/HRC meme!

'Bernie steals and then gets to be the victim.'

Nope. This was a clumsy attempt to ratfuck Bernie's campaign that is backfiring on Clinton and the DNC big time.

They don't control the message. We do.

Single payer healthcare, free college, removing the payroll tax cap for stronger Social Security, making corporations and billionaires pay their fair share, reinstating Glass-Steagall and other regulations on Wall Street so they can't screw us quite so easily, investing in the infrastructure, raising minimum wages, reforming the justice system, de-privatizing prisons, strengthening unions so workers get a fairer share...


Unsustainable student debt and free college tuition: Is Sanders right or is it just a giveaway?

Consider this: The student debt our children and grandchildren are burdened by has risen from over $26,000 just a few years ago to over $31,000 now. This problem is ubiquitous. This, coupled with the fact that over 14% of student loans default within three years and the lion's share of these defaults are from private for-profit 'schools,' then we see that we have allowed our system to totally fuck over the kids we supposedly love.

At the same time, employers are crying out for more and more and more skilled workers. Our young people should not have to make the decision to go to college or not by weighing the debt load they will incur versus lifetime earnings benefits. That isn't only unfair to our kids, but it screws our businesses because then they cannot find the college educated people they need. And the shortage is growing more acute each year.

Allow me to explain:

You can see for yourself how this has played out using some simple mathematics.

First, access the US Census American Factfinder Advanced Search. Go in there, click on 'topics' then 'people' then 'education' then 'field of degree' and you can get tables that show field of degree by sex by age. Simply put this on Excel, add the total of both sexes together by age band and you will see that:

- 52.7 million Americans that have bachelors degrees
- Of these, 31.4 million are aged 40 to 64, and only 21.3 million are aged 25 to 39
- What this means is that as 1.25 million degree-holding people 'age out' of the labor force each year, 1.42 million new degree holders come in
- This is a net increase of degree holders of just over 162,000 per year

That sounds OK, but it isn't the complete picture. Now, here's the simple math:

The number of jobs requiring a bachelors degree or above is expected to increase by 4.2 million over the next 10 years. This means that the net labor force demand for people with bachelors degrees is about 421,500 per year.

This is a deficit of nearly 260,000 degreed workers per year, and employers are already feeling that shortage.

We need to fix this problem to keep our economy competitive. This is the paradox for the poor capitalists, who are in a quandry. On the one hand, they want to eke out the uttermost farthing of profits. But on the other hand, if they can't find the people to produce their goods or services then they lose profits. Those poor capitalists!

Here's Bernie's Real Deal: We're not GIVING anybody ANYTHING they don't deserve, or that our society doesn't need by investing in free education for our kids. Also you'll note that Bernie's platform is 'free education in state schools to bachelor level.' This will cull out all the bullshit for profit non accredited fly by night schools that run commercials on late night TV and victimize the most naive among our children by hard selling a 'degree' with which the cannot find a decent job.

My conclusion: Bernie is right. College needs to be free. Current average student debt levels are unsustainable, and the high cost of education is in the process of causing an acute and ongoing shortage of skilled, degreed workers that our economy needs to remain competitive. Bernie makes, and we feel the moral case, but there is a hard dollars-and-sense business case to be made as well.

Does Clinton now have it in the bag? Should Bernie just throw in the towel?

Clinton has NOTHING in the bag. Not yet. The primaries haven't happened yet.

See, NO one in the establishment wants Bernie as the Democratic candidate. Why? Because he's speaking truth to power and because he's honest and incorruptible. He gets in the way of the oligarchs, because the MIC, Wall Street and the rest of the 1/10 of 1% corporate overlords are making their move to end nation states through the TPP. Read it if you don't believe me.

Sanders is damned inconvenient for the establishment's chosen one, because in spite of the corporate-owned 'news' channels, pundits and pollsters all saying Clinton 'has this in the bag,' there's one thing they are not saying but are definitely worried about. They do not control the dialog. 20 years ago or even 15, this would have been death to Bernie's campaign because the establishment CONTROLLED THE DIALOG through its big, swollen, throbbing, erect mass media, which would dutifully spew out whatever bullshit the corporate overlords wanted.

Too bad for them that in 2015 THEY DO NOT CONTROL THE DIALOG. We do. Through portals like this, blogs, social media. Everyone I know and associate with is still going to caucus for Bernie in my state, and others in other locations are saying the same. Even the latest meme, 'Bernie can sell mugs and tee shirts and fill arenas, but he can't win" hasn't worked the way Clinton surrogates and the rest of the establishment want. In fact, we've had meme after meme after meme get overturned, but you know what?

Tens of thousands of people like me, who are fucking sick, puking sick, about how those we elect to represent us don't uphold our interests at all are PUSHING BACK. We are controlling the dialog and we're gonna shoot down this new meme just like all the others with a big truth bomb.

You know why? Because I'm fucking sick to death of my shitty, rationed healthcare and worrying about cuts to Social Security. I'm fucking TIRED of my kids having forever loans because they had the temerity to attend college. I'm fucking MAD. I want MY tax dollars spent on programs that benefit ME and my family for a change, instead of another immoral forever war.

I'm tired of this shit, and in my opinion, Clinton is just another Third Way shill. She's not gonna help me. She's not gonna help you. She's not gonna help your sons, daughters, grandsons or granddaughters. She isn't.

She's gonna help Wall Street and the MIC because they are who butters her bread.

So, if you are for Bernie, let's push back hard on this one and get the truth out on every social media site. Because our guy, the ONLY one who has actually cared about US since FDR, Jack and Bobby, is getting RATFUCKED. Let's fight back.

This Shkreli thing is bugging the sh*t out of me.

Here's the link to the actual article, which has the (enraging) title 'Why We Need Martin Shkreli.'

So...let's talk about that. Especially let's talk about the part where the author says, 'When Shkreli speaks bluntly about the needs of shareholders, without the buzzwords and public relations scripts, he makes big pharma very uncomfortable. Because he's telling the truth. "Itís a business; weíre supposed to make as much money as possible," Shkreli said at the Forbes Healthcare Summit last week, where his attendance was the buzz of the conference. If anything, he said, he would've raised the price of Daraprim higher.'

To me, this represents a moral issue; specifically it represents a HUGE, gross, bloated, swollen conflict of interest that victimizes ALL but very rich Americans.

The only thing that I actually agree with the article on is where it says that England sells the drug for $20, and the difference between that and the USA is that our government can't negotiate drug prices because a) the people we have elected to uphold our interests in Washington DC are corrupt liars who are on the payroll of big pharma, and b) we don't have single payer healthcare like EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CIVILIZED WORLD because of a) above.

The moral issue is this: the mandate to maximize return for shareholders is in direct conflict with the mission of the healthcare system to prevent and cure illness. There just isn't any way around it. If you're a CEO you a) gouge patients to maximize profits wherever you can, and b) work very hard to avoid paying for care patients need so costs can be cut.

That is just.................wrong.

I mean, between my employer and I, we pay 18.5% of my gross so my wife and I can 'enjoy' shitty, rationed healthcare from an HMO that cares far more about keeping costs down than actually giving us treatments we need. My wife has suffered for years with doctors that don't want to do more expensive treatments or more extensive tests because they are pressured by the HMO to keep costs down, and we can't afford the huge copay for surgery ($3 grand right there. Each. So if we both have to have surgery, it is $6 grand out of pocket. Each year. We just cannot afford that, so the woman I love continues to suffer, which makes me feel like shit, but I myself am physically incapable of working harder by getting a second job - I just can't do it any more.)

The other thing here is that this shitty HMO we have has raised prices double digits each year for the last DECADE. Every year, HR summons us into a room and they tell us how we are going to be paying higher premiums and higher copays for less service because it's the best our HR people can negotiate because my employer is relatively small with fewer than 4,000 employees.

There's NOTHING that can convince me that single payer wouldn't be a whole world of improvement over the sucky excessively expensive system we have now, and anyway, they are OUR tax dollars. It pisses me off that we have to do bullshit things with OUR tax money like funding wasteful immoral wars when we SHOULD be taking care of the needs of our people. That in itself is a scathing indictment of the corruption in our whole system. The corruption of neoliberal 'free market' capitalism, which eats at all of us like a cancer.

As to Shkreli - try that son of a bitch and put him in a cage for the rest of his life. THROW AWAY THE KEY.
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