Monday, August 16, 2010

Corporate big-wigs ... saved by government and now whining big time!

Dear Colleagues

I guess I am pretty damn mad ... like many ordinary folk.

Over the past two years the corporate community, and especially the too big to fail banking and industrial organizations, have been saved from economic oblivion by government as the safety net of last resort! For the past several months, since it became evident that the safety net for the big corporate community had worked ... the big beneficiaries have been on an all out crusade to stop the sort of reform that many of us think are the least that needs to get done.

The healthcare reform legislation and the financial regulation legislation are substantial pieces of law making ... and certainly progress, if not perfect. Neither is popular with the corporate community, which is disturbing since they should have been working to ensure that society got good legislation that served the population. Instead the corporate community sounds more like they are part of the world that Dickens wrote about in the 19th century!

It is quite sickening! The corporate world has become accustomed to getting its way in Washington, as well as with governments around the world. Hopefully this era is over, but the corporate lobbyists and PR people are not going to be quiet about it. Society needs its governments to be funded ... and big and multinational corporate organizations should be paying their fair share of taxes.

Robert Scheer wrote an interesting Op-Ed along somewhat similar lines ... the text follows ... the URL is:
There's Just No Pleasing Some Robber Barons
Wednesday 14 July 2010
by: Robert Scheer | Truthdig | Op-Ed

The flight from reason that now marks American public discourse came home for me last Friday, when I found myself on public radio debating whether Barack Obama is anti-business. The "news hook" for KCRW's "Left, Right & Center" show, which I have co-hosted for 15 years, was an absurd spate of charges from Obama's former big-business allies that he had become their enemy. If only it were so.

One of those who has been complaining is billionaire publisher Mort Zuckerman, who now finds in a White House he once supported "hostility" to the business culture he credits with the country's greatness. I assume he is not talking about the belated efforts to hold BP accountable for the cost of the oil spill that our pro-drilling president once thought not possible.

And then there was Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric and once friendly to Obama but now alarmed by new regulations. He was one of the many CEOs cited by Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post as evidence of "Obama's CEO problem." General Electric is a company that got into deep trouble when it stopped worrying about making better light bulbs and came to devote much of its business through GE capital to fancy financial products. With GE having been saved by the taxpayers, one wonders what the conglomerate has to complain about. Or Wall Street donors now stiffing the Democrats and claiming Obama is hostile to them.

All this comes at the very time that Wall Street lobbyists stand poised to win a sweeping victory preventing a reversal of the radical deregulation that made the banking debacle possible. The "Volcker rule," restoration of the New Deal-era barrier between investment and consumer banking that Obama had pledged to support, is gutted. As a disappointed Paul Volcker told Louis Uchitelle in an interview for The New York Times, he would rate the reforms just a B and not even a B-plus. Leading Wall Street economist Henry Kaufman told the Times, "The legislation is a Rube Goldberg contraption, and there are long timelines before the Volcker rule is fully implemented."

Game over, Wall Street won big-time, and the George W. Bush-Obama policy has made the financiers whole while largely ignoring the deep plight of the true victims of the economic collapse, the unemployed and the foreclosed.

The argument that Obama is anti-business is nothing more than the old propaganda trick that the best defense is a good offense, so blame the victims for your crimes. The high-tone intellectual argument for that position was supplied by Harvard professor Niall Ferguson, a transplanted Thatcherite, at the same Aspen, Colo., gathering where Zuckerman spoke.

At a conference on ideas paid for and attended by the rich and well-positioned, Ferguson argued that the high rate of unemployment is not due to the Wall Street high rollers whose funny-money games wiped out 8 million jobs but rather the extension of the government's unemployment insurance program:

"The curse of long-term unemployment is that if you pay people to do nothing, they'll find themselves doing nothing for very long periods of time. Long-term unemployment is at an all-time high in the United States, and it is a direct consequence of a misconceived public policy."

Yes, except that the public policy that was so terribly misconceived was that of radical deregulation, launched by the Reagan Revolution and implemented by President Bill Clinton, not the pathetic palliative of unemployment checks.

Notice that the attacks on Obama are not about his having followed George W. Bush's example of throwing money at Wall Street, the cause of the meltdown and the run-up of the national debt, but rather the much smaller amount spent on ameliorating the pain that the titans of finance caused for ordinary citizens. And of course there is never a word of self-criticism on the part of folks like Ferguson, Immelt and Zuckerman for their own roles in having cheered on the radical deregulation that made this mess not only possible but inevitable.

Not so Volcker, once the darling of fiscal conservatives when he tamed inflation during the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan years, and when as Fed chair and later as an influential observer he failed to stand publicly against the move to radical deregulation. As was reported in the Times interview: "In retrospect, Mr. Volcker regrets not challenging the widely held assumptions that underpinned much of this. `You had an intellectual conviction that you did not need much regulation -- that the market could take care of itself,' he says. `I'm happy that illusion has been shattered.'"

Unfortunately, that illusion has not been shattered for many of the elite in this country, as evidenced by their rage against Obama's too modest steps in the right direction.

Robert Scheer is editor of, where this column originally appeared. E-mail Robert Scheer at

I posted a quick comment in response to this.
Dear Colleagues

I note with interest the fickleness of the political community, the shallowness of the media and the mass audience and the self serving posturing of the robber baron business community.

I am an advocate for profitable business ... but equally I am an advocate for business to be value adding for the communities in our society. When profits go up and jobs go down there is some serious inefficiency in the "market" which is being exploited and gamed by business and the market makers.

My position is very much along the lines that we need value accounting as well as profit accounting ... and with this there can be behavior change that would be a substantial paradigm shift towards what is needed.

Peter Burgess
The more I engage in the dialog about politics and the governance associated with the corporate sector, the more I become convinced that the lack of value metrics is a big part of the problem. GE has been in trouble before because its financial business unit has been out of control ... and the business media is lurching from story to story without, it seems, having much of an understanding of the what it is that drives a profitable sustainable society.

My hope is that Burgess Valumetrics will help ... sooner rather than later! Most of the elements needed for a complete system of metrics based on socio-economic value are available ... the challenge is to make them easy to use and relevant to the economic actors in society.

Peter Burgess

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