Helicopter Ben’s QE3

At this point, I think anything that the Fed does is like voodoo. It almost doesn’t matter if it works, as long as the market thinks it does:

The Federal Reserve said it will expand its holdings of long-term securities with open-ended purchases of $40 billion of mortgage debt a month in a third round of quantitative easing as it seeks to boost growth and reduce unemployment.


“We’re looking for ongoing, sustained improvement in the labor market,” Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in his press conference today in Washington following the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. “There’s not a specific number we have in mind. What we’ve seen in the last six months isn’t it.”


Stocks jumped, sending benchmark indexes to the highest levels since 2007, and gold climbed as the Fed said it will continue buying assets, undertake additional purchases and employ other policy tools as appropriate “if the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially.”


Ezra Klein seems to think the new round of quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve is a BFD, and will send an encouraging signal to the markets:

The Federal Reserve’s announcement Thursday is a big deal.


It’s a big deal because of what they’re doing. They’re buying $85 billion in assets every month through the end of the year, and then they’re potentially going to keep doing it in 2013. They’re promising to keep interest rates low through the recovery, and then keep them low after the recovery strengthens.


But it’s a bigger deal because of what they’re saying. Thursday, the Federal Reserve said, finally, that they’re not content with 8 percent unemployment and a sluggish recovery, and they’re willing to actually do something about it. If you’re an investor or a business owner trying to decide what the market is going to look like next year, you just got a lot more optimistic.

That’s the weird thing about the Federal Reserve. We don’t just care about what they do. Because their power is so vast — the ability to make as much real, American money as you want is quite a superpower — we care about what they want in the future. And, until Thursday, we weren’t getting much clarity on what they wanted in the future, or how far they were willing to go to achieve it.

Ian Welsh says no, it won’t help the people who need it the most:

The Fed has announced its third quantitative easing program. To state what should be obvious, the effect on the economy for ordinary people will be minimal, as with QE1 and 2. It will help banks, financial firms most, other large corporations will also benefit. If you work at the executive level in one of those organizations, it will help you and raise your salary or bonuses. It will not significantly raise demand for goods and services and will not do much for the rest of the economy. Remember, 93% of the gains of the Obama recovery went to the rich, and that was not by mistake.

Atrios is not quite as gloomy as Ian, but close:

So we’re going to have more goosing of financial asset prices. Bernanke said something about how we’ll all go spend money when we see that our 401Ks are doing better. So a lot more money for rich people, a tiny bit more for some of the rest of us, and some hopey that it causes the economy to go WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Wheee

Rebuilding the Big Shitpile! See what letting bankers off the hook gets us?

Starting next year, new rules designed to prevent another meltdown will force traders to post U.S. Treasury bonds or other top-rated holdings to guarantee more of their bets. The change takes effect as the $10.8 trillion market for Treasuries is already stretched thin by banks rebuilding balance sheets and investors seeking safety, leaving fewer bonds available to backstop the $648 trillion derivatives market.

The solution: At least seven banks plan to let customers swap lower-rated securities that don’t meet standards in return for a loan of Treasuries or similar holdings that do qualify, a process dubbed “collateral transformation.” That’s raising concerns among investors, bank executives and academics that measures intended to avert risk are hiding it instead.

Adding to the concern is the reaction of central clearinghouses, which collect from losers on derivatives trades and pay off winners. Some have responded to the collateral shortage by lowering standards, with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange accepting bonds rated four levels above junk.

“We just keep piling on lots of operational risk as we convert one form of collateral into another. The dealers look after their own interests, and they won’t necessarily look after the systemic risks that are associated with this.”

Wingnut ‘stink tanks’ and the schools privatization plan

What the teachers in Chicago are fighting is a right-wing agenda that’s been in play for a long time, secretly and heavily funded by right wingers and carefully messaged. They’re pretty effective, too, since I hear so many “liberals” repeating right-wing talking points about this strike:

Cato Institute, 1997:

Like most other conservatives and libertarians, we see vouchers as a major step toward the complete privatization of schooling. In fact, after careful study, we have come to the conclusion that they are the only way to dismantle the current socialist regime.”


Bast spells out the agenda,


“Vouchers zero in on the government school monopoly’s most vulnerable point: the distinction between government financing and government delivery of service. People who accept the notion that schooling is an entitlement will nevertheless vote to allow private schools to compete with one another for public funds. That fact gives us the tool we need to undercut the organizing ability of teachers’ unions, and hence their power as a special-interest group.


…Because we know how the government schools perpetuate themselves, we can design a plan to dismantle them.

Right-wing billionaire Dick DeVos speaking at the Heritage Foundation, 2002:

And so while those of us on the national level can give support, we need to encourage the development of these organizations on a state-by-state basis, in order to be able to offer a political consequence, for opposition, and political reward, for support of, education reform issues.


That has got to be the battle. It will not be as visible. And, in fact, to the extent that we on the right, those of us on the conservative side of the aisle, appropriate education choice as our idea, we need to be a little bit cautious about doing that, because we have here an issue that cuts in a very interesting way across our community and can cut, properly communicated, properly constructed, can cut across a lot of historic boundaries, be they partisan, ethnic, or otherwise.


And so we’ve got a wonderful issue that can work for Americans. But to the extent that it is appropriated or viewed as only a conservative idea it will risk not getting a clear and a fair hearing in the court of public opinion. So we do need to be cautious about that.


We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities. Many of the activities and the political work that needs to go on will go on at the grass roots. It will go on quietly and it will go on in the form that often politics is done – one person at a time, speaking to another person in privacy. And so these issues will not be, maybe, as visible or as noteworthy, but they will set a framework within states for the possibility of action on education reform issues.”

They couldn’t be any clearer about their agenda: They want to destroy teachers unions and the public school system. This is what the Chicago strike is about. Stand up for public education. Stop falling for the right-wing spin.

Fast Eddie

It sure pisses me off to see former Gov./Mayor Ed Rendell on my teevee, talking against the Chicago teachers strike and pushing the Grand Bargain! (You’d think Stephen Colbert would know better.) In a recent post, Rich Eskow really puts Fast Eddie in perspective:

Consider former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who said today that the Chicago strike is “an important issue, because Rahm Emanuel is showing again that Democrats can stand up to unions when their demands are unreasonable.”


Banker/Democrats always need to show they’re tough, since they’re not willing to be do it where it’s really needed — by prosecuting their colleagues. Who makes a better scapegoat than the teachers who educate our kids? And if teachers don’t like the public bashing, hey — it serves ’em right for causing the financial crisis with all those toxic derivatives.


Banker/Democrats are always practicing their “tough” lines in the mirror. I can see them now asking their advisors, How’s this for tough? “Hey, kids! Ask your homeroom teacher if she’s better off now than she was four years ago!”


Rendell’s a folksy sounding guy with a flair for feisty, if nonspecific, leftish rhetoric. He came to the Governor’s office by way of a Philadelphia law firm called Ballard Spahr. The firm was first established in 1885, right around the time that the phrase “Philadelphia lawyer” became a synonym for “moneyed elite” — and for good reason. It continues to specialize in real estate, mergers and acquisitions, municipal bonds, and other forms of high-finance law.


Ballard Spahr received $22 million in legal fees from the state of Pennsylvania while Rendell was Governor. And when he left office, our “Man of the People” went right back to Ballard Spahr. It’s nice when things work out, isn’t it?


There’s no indication that Rendell ever applied for a job with the Philadelphia School District upon leaving the Governor’s office. In addition to his post-gubernatorial Ballard Spahr partnership, however, Rendell is now a “Senior Advisor” with the investment banking firm of Greenhill & Co.


He is also a regular commentator for MSNBC — the “liberal” alternative to Fox News.

As I tell people about Rendell, “We like him. We just don’t trust him as far as we can throw ‘im.” Perfect example: He’s one of the beloved centrists working to sell us that mess of magic beans called the Grand Bargain. His little group is called Fix The Debt. Charles Pierce puts it all in perspective:

Last week, the group, calling itself Fix the Debt, went public at a news conference urging the president and Congress to embrace a deficit-reduction plan along the lines suggested by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission, which included reforms of a tax code that produces too little and entitlement programs that spend too much. “Think of it as Simpson-Bowles 3.0,” said former Republican senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who is co-chairman of the effort along with Ed Rendell, the former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania.


No, I don’t think I will think of it that way, and not just because the blog’s First Law of Economics — Fck the Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money. — prevents me from greeting the words “Simpson” or “Bowles” with anything except gales of derisive laughter. Rather, I will think of it as the Plutocrats Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of My Wallet. A little clumsier, but more accurate, I think.


(And manly man Ed Rendell can just get stuffed at this point. He’s as much a Democrat where it counts as Tagg Romney is.)

Let me put it this way: If Ed Rendell’s for something, you can be pretty sure it’s not liberal.

The green zone

Nice catch from Marcy Wheeler regarding the Romney campaign’s new blame the media for our inability to run a campaign strategy:

One of Mitt’s advisors–hiding his own identity, but not his affiliation with the campaign of a man who has a car elevator–just said this:

The adviser, granted anonymity to criticize a press corps the campaign still relies on every day, went on to blame a “green room, green zone kind of divide,” saying the national press, most of whom live in New York or DC, “pockets of prosperity,” are isolated from the realities of the harsh economy — and therefore, unable to grasp Romney’s message.


Instead, they are preoccupied by concerns akin to war reporters relaxing in the green zone: “Too much chlorine in the pool, the parties are going on too late, why can’t we get the right flavors of Haagen Dazs? Most people aren’t living in that world.” [my emphasis]


And yes, the people who are doing rather well really are completely detached from how badly the rest of us are doing. There really is a green zone for them.


As Marcy notes in her post, there’s no denying that your librul media elite are oblivious to how the economy affects the lives of ordinary people, but really, the one person who can’t credibly complain on our behalf is vulture capitalist Mitt Romney. After all, he put so many of us in this predicament.

Not that discretion and common sense has ever stopped him from saying this sort of thing.  Remember earlier this year when Romney claimed to be from the “real streets of America.”

Yeah, Easy Street!

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