A Moment of Mourning

Fred LeeThe Department of Economics at UMKC lost a member of its family last night. Fred Lee, prolific scholar, humanist, and devoted husband, father and grandfather, spent the last several months battling a startling diagnosis — a non-smoking variety of stage 4 lung cancer. Like the disease itself, Fred was a rare type.  His commitment to the advancement of heterodox economics built an infrastructure of newsletters and list serves to enable this community of scholars to engage and build ties.  He recorded this podcast with me shortly after learning that his diagnosis was terminal.  Fred left an indelible mark on the UMKC Economics Department and on heterodox economics. We will miss him terribly.  ~Stephanie Kelton

*Podcast audio starts garbled but quickly resolves.

Click here to watch Fed’s last lecture in his MA-level Micro theory course. 

The New York Times Finally Allows Competent EU Commentators

By William K. Black

As my regular readers know, the NYT coverage of the EU financial crisis has been shameful, economically illiterate, and harmful. In the last two weeks, however, that coverage has finally begun to mention the concept of inadequate demand, the fact that governmental spending can provide demand, and that austerity is not the only available choice. In the last 10 days the coverage even began to quote economists who made the point that austerity is the problem rather than the solution. This modest improvement has taken six years, two gratuitous Great Recessions, and Great Depressions for about one-third the eurozone’s population.

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Jamie Dimon: U.S. Must Create a “Safe Harbor” Where JPM’s Corruption Is Not “Punished”

By William K. Black

I want to give a hat tip to a recent Wall Street Journal article that brought to my attention two damning admissions by JPMorgan’s (JPM) CEO and Chairman of the Board, Jamie Dimon.  The irony is that Dimon was lulled into making these admissions because he was basking in the perfect calm created by the confluence of Sorkin’s and CNBC’s storied sycophancy at the one place on earth where elite bankers feel most loved, honored, and protected – the annual meeting of the ultra-wealthy in Davos, Switzerland.  Sorkin was the only interviewer, so Dimon faced no risk of tough questions.  It may well have been this perfect setting that caused Dimon to let slip the mask and reveal two illustrative sins of elite bankers reported in the WSJ article.

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How the Rocket Scientists Aided the Senior Fraudulent Bank Officers

By William K. Black

In my first column in this two-part series I explained how the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) non-prosecutorial effort against the banksters’ frauds that caused the financial crisis had ended with a pathetic whimper uttered by Deputy Attorney General James Cole during his ritual exit interview with Bloomberg. Cole’s explanation for DOJ’s failure to prosecute a single senior banker for leading the three fraud epidemics that drove the financial crisis was that DOJ was “dealing with financial rocket science.” My first column made the point, which escaped DOJ and Bloomberg that if this were true it would presumably have been modestly important for DOJ to do something about the ability of “rocket scientists” to grow wealthy by leading the frauds that cost the U.S. $21 trillion in lost GDP and 10 million jobs. In my second column I explained why no rocket science was required to prosecute the senior bank officers that led the three most destructive epidemics of financial fraud. In light of a reader’s comment I promised to write this third piece on “rocket science” in the financial context.

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Liar’s Loans Ain’t “Rocket Science”

By William K. Black

In my first column in this two-part series I explained how the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) non-prosecutorial effort against the banksters’ frauds that caused the financial crisis had ended with a pathetic whimper uttered by Deputy Attorney General James Cole during his ritual exit interview with Bloomberg. Cole’s explanation for DOJ’s failure to prosecute a single senior banker for leading the three fraud epidemics that drove the financial crisis was that DOJ was “dealing with financial rocket science.” My first column made the point, which escaped DOJ and Bloomberg that if this were true it would presumably have been modestly important for DOJ to do something about the ability of “rocket scientists” to grow wealthy by leading the frauds that cost the U.S. $21 trillion in lost GDP and 10 million jobs. I also promised this column explaining why it was not true. In light of a reader’s comment I’ll add a third piece on “rocket science” in the financial context.

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Not with a Bang but a Whimper: DOJ Says it Cannot Prosecute “Rocket Science” Frauds

By William K. Black

This is the way the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) greatest strategic prosecutorial failure ends, not with a bang but a whimper that it is too hard to prosecute “rocket science” frauds.  The context is the ritual Bloomberg exit interview with the senior DOJ official going off to make his new fortune.  The lucky fellow this week is Deputy Attorney General James Cole.  This genre of interview is designed to allow the man in the revolving door to announce his great accomplishments as a prosecutor, or in this case, non-prosecutor.  Cole gamely claims that zero prosecutions constitutes a brilliant success because DOJ’s civil cases “have resulted in banks paying huge fines and altering their behavior.”

“Holder today praised Cole as his ‘indispensable partner’ since taking the deputy’s job in January 2011. ‘Jim’s leadership and ingenuity have been critical in attaining historic results on behalf of the American people,’ Holder said in a statement.”

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Krugman’s Bashes Progressives for Criticizing Obama on Grounds that He Criticizes Obama

By William K. Black

Paul Krugman’s admirers would never list modesty as one of his characteristics. He has written a column “In Defense of Obama” that begins by explaining that his criticisms of President Obama were correct, but that unidentified others’ criticisms of Obama constitute “trash talk.”

Specifically, Obama “came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain.” Obama sought to produce a self-inflicted disaster by desperately trying to reach a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans that would have inflicted austerity on our Nation in 2012, “slash[ed] Social Security and [raised] the Medicare [eligibility] age.” As even Krugman admits, we were saved from this catastrophe “only by Republican greed, the GOP’s unwillingness to make even token concessions” to achieve the Grand Bargain. What Krugman omits in the tale is that it was also a revolt by Democratic progressives against the Grand Bargain that saved Obama and the Nation.

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Deal Book Says Citi “Cannot Afford” to Run an Honest Bank in Mexico

By William K. Black

Deal Book, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s ethics-free paean to painless elite bank frauds – all the wealth and none of the accountability – has plumbed new depths in its coverage of Citi’s latest frauds.  It has literally written that Citi “cannot afford” to run an honest bank in Mexico.

I’ll put aside for another day the obvious point that Citi does not run an honest bank in the U.S. so the authors’ implicit assumption that Citi’s problems arise from a corrupt Mexican culture is false and bigoted.  For purposes of analysis only, I will discuss the logical implications of the Deal Book’s “Blame it on Mexico” thesis. That thesis does not lead the NYT authors to ask Citi’s leaders to discuss which of three options it chose given that it cannot afford to run an honest bank in Mexico.

  • To run an honest bank in Mexico anyway, or
  • To lead a movement to clean up banking and politics in Mexico, or
  • To stop banking in Mexico

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Did Ms. Rousseff’s epiphany come too late?

By Felipe Rezende

If you’ve been tracking the news on Brazil’s presidential election, you already knew that incumbent Rousseff will face Neves in a runoff election for Brazil’s presidency on October 26th. The tight election reflects the perception of a downward trend of the nation’s economic outlook augmented by news that Brazil’s economy has fallen into recession in the first and second quarters of 2014. This really isn’t looking like the election the Workers’ Party expected. Brazil’s unemployment rate has hit record lows, real incomes have increased, bank credit has roughly doubled since 2002, it has accumulated US$ 376 billion of reserves as of October 2014 and it has lifted the external constraint. The poverty rate and income inequality have sharply declined due to government policy and social inclusion programs, it has lifted 36 million out of extreme poverty since 2002. Moreover, the resilience and stability of Brazil’s economic and financial systems have received attention as they navigated relatively smoothly through the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. Brazil’s response to the largest failure of capitalism since the Great Depression included a series of measures to boost domestic demand.

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EU Ideologues “Crowd Out” Sanity

By William K. Black

It is often the small things that best illustrate insanity.  On October 13, 2014, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Jyrki Katainen spoke to emphasize one message:

“[The EU’s leaders] ‘don’t want the [European Investment Bank] EIB crowding out private investment.’  He said the EIB should be used to leverage money from the private sector, ‘and play a part in big infrastructure projects,’ notably ones that have been delayed.”

It’s helpful to situate this smaller example of economic insanity within the broader context of the insanity of austerity inflicted by those same EU leaders.  The general insanity is that the EU politicians are the most economically illiterate and extreme member of the troika.  I just wrote a column explaining that they are bitterly attacking Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) for (in their warped interpretation) becoming apostate on the subject of austerity.  The IMF, at least many of its professional economists, left the one truth faith of the austerians long ago when it began publishing research showing that fiscal stimulus was a great success and even its leadership began to warn against austerity. 

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