Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Class Warfare Closer Every Day [Updated below]

The United States Congress and Senate will see remarkable turnover in this fall's elections. Unprecedented "retirements" and primary challenges will ensure that the Congress we have next year will look quite different than today's.

Such tumult is due to the general dissatisfaction the voters have for their elected representatives. You don't have to be a Tea Partier to feel angst toward the behemothic machine of greed and corruption that defines our corporations and government. Personally, I am always amazed at the acquiescence the general public exhibit.

The largest single expenditure of public wealth in my lifetime-- which was the waging of war in Iraq-- was surpassed in 2008 with a $780 billion bailout facility for banks. Never mind the sweetheart deal signed into law in 2003 under the name Medicare Part D, an entitlement that will cost taxpayers a trillion dollars over ten years.

My guess is that this massive wealth transfer was a large part of the rationale behind electing Barack Obama in 2008. Now after 12 months at the helm, girded by solid majorities in both Houses of Congress, we have no financial reform legislation, no health care reform, increased war expenditure in Afghanistan, and the world credit crisis is entering the second phase. The 2008 election was the closest thing to a revolution we could have had within the United States, giving the new leader broad latitude and high approval ratings to change the status quo, and yet we still have the same gridlock and pay-offs, filibusters and logjams, that we have always had.

The public is restless, and the politicians know it. Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) announced his surprise retirement yesterday and FireDogLake asks if this is because the PhARMA leadership is available, and the light bulb sparked to brightness. These folks are retiring from Congress because they know that change is afoot. The next change we see will be a complete collapse of the known political influence system; perhaps with much-need lobbyist reform, or better, publicly-financed elections. And guys like Bayh need to cash in NOW before the hammer comes down.

Nicolas Taleb, author of the Black Swan, warns us that the largest cataclysms are those that are unforeseeable, and they occur out of a clear blue sky. As the stock market makes it's recovery, job losses are pared and people start spending again, we could blind-sided by the next leg down in the global economic crisis. I'm not naive enough to believe I can predict what will occur, but there are plenty of oily rags laying about the garage that a spark from any of several sources-- Greece, Spain, CRE-- could ignite a conflagration.

Our ability to manage the next crisis will be limited since the world's central banks have already shot their wad of liquidity at the last crisis, and now they must weigh the risks of social unrest against the devaluing of their respective fiat currencies even more. Greece can cut public pensions only so much before the riots break out. Evan Bayh probably figures he's got about 24 months, at a million dollars per month as head of PhARMA or some other lobbying concern, before the class war hits Indianapolis. By then he'll have his stash secured.

UPDATE at 1337hrs

Aproximately 6 hours after the post, the news services are reporting a bomb has exploded in the JP Morgan branch in Athens. The civil unrest may be closer than we thought, Mr. Taleb notwithstanding.


Jay said...

What do you mean by "oily rags laying around the 'Grodge'"? Also w/ the "wad-shooting", way too much sexual inuendo in this post. Or is there? HUZZAH!

Tony said...

The civil unrest may be closer than I thought: http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.aspx?feed=AP&date=20100216&id=11122586

antipundit said...

As Greece goes, so goes the world?

Tony said...

Not necessarily, but the sickest canary is the first to be asphyxiated.

antipundit said...

You may also want to see: http://vagabondscholar.blogspot.com/2010/02/no-way-to-run-empire.html
- and I'm not linking this w/ a "heh, indeed". Just seems self-explanatory, and complimentary to your post. YMMV, also too, etc.

Batocchio said...

Class warfare has been pretty lopsided for the past 30-some years... As Buffet quipped, his side has been winning.