Elizabeth Warren: Better, But Not there Yet

In her recent post-election piece “It’s Time to Work on America’s Agenda” Elizabeth Warren points out that the changes in Washington and in various States aren’t changing the fact that

The stock market and gross domestic product keep going up, while families are getting squeezed hard by an economy that isn’t working for them.

Or to put it another way, it’s not enough to have aggregate indicators going up. We also have to have shared gains and inequality going down, and given our current state of affairs, going down rapidly. She then says:

The solution to this isn’t a basket of quickly passed laws designed to prove Congress can do something — anything. The solution isn’t for the president to cut deals — any deals — just to show he can do business. The solution requires an honest recognition of the kind of changes needed if families are going to get a shot at building a secure future.

That’s what happened in 2009 – 2010. Democrats structured legislation in a vain search for bipartisanship, and in doing so produced:

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CEO Compensation: “Cheaters Prosper”

By William K. Black

As financial regulators we have been warning since 1984 that accounting control fraud is optimized by modern executive compensation. Modern executive compensation is so perverse that it creates overwhelming incentives to engage in fraud and the means of committing the fraud that makes it far more difficult to prosecute. The CEO is able to convert the firm’s assets to his own benefit through seemingly normal corporate mechanisms. CEOs also use executive and professional compensation to generate “Gresham’s” dynamics and incentivize fraud by employees, officers, and professionals.

George Akerlof and Paul Romer added their voice to this point in1993 in their article “Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit.” Among the points they emphasized were that accounting control fraud was a “sure thing” and that the way for the CEO controlling a lender to optimize to optimize his looting was to cause the lender to make very bad loans at a premium nominal yield. White-collar criminologists and the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement (NCFIRRE) reached similar conclusions beginning in 1993.

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Zero Prosecutions Aren’t Few Enough – Wall Street Wants SEC Sanctions Reduced to DMV Points

By William K. Black
Kilkenny, Ireland: November 8, 2014

Wall Street’s full depravity was put on display in Joseph Fichera’s November 6, 2014 op ed in the New York Times. I hasten to add that the reason that the op ed is so revealing is that Fichera is one of the sometimes good guys who, for example, accurately warned that “auction-rate securities” were a dangerous scam and criticized JPMorgan’s odious abuse of Denver. When the Ficheras of the world join in Wall Street’s “race to the bottom” Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s President Dudley’s point about the corrupt culture that characterizes Wall Street is proven irrefutably.

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Germany’s Passive-Aggressive “Stimulus” Program

By William K. Black
Kilkenny, Ireland: November 7, 2014

Kilkenomics, being a festival of economists and comedians, has long reflected the economic consensus that austerity in response to a Great Recession is economic malpractice akin to bleeding a patient to make him healthy. One of the great changes in Europe in the last month is that the number of economic voices willing to make this same point have grown rapidly. Germany’s “there is no alternative” (TINA) to austerity claims were always absurd, but now many more European voices are willing to point out that there are superb alternatives – in Germany. A recent Irish Times article provides a good example.

“Leading economists have criticised Germany on its public investment restraint which, at 18.4 per cent of GDP, is below the EU average of 19.2 per cent. A study by Berlin’s DIW economic think tank suggests a €1 trillion backlog has built up in Germany since 2000.”

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Let’s Call It What It Is – Murder

By William K. Black
Kilkenny, Ireland: November 8, 2014

Clarence Ditlow and Ralph Nader wrote a column in the New York Times on October 29, 2014 that should be reread in light of the November 6, 2014 NYT article’s subsequent revelations about the Takata’s cover up of sometimes lethal defects in its airbags – a cover up that reportedly continued for over a decade.

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The Euphemistic “White Collar Watch” is Addicted to Euphemism

By William K. Black
Kilkenny, Ireland: November 7, 2014

Kilkenomics pairs top professional comedians with economics contributors who share two characteristics: wide-ranging interests and knowledge and candor. This means that the contributors take clear positions and defend those positions with facts and logic. That refreshing willingness to actually be blunt about important things may be what set my teeth so on edge when I read the New York Times’ “White Collar Watch” feature. It is written by Peter J. Henning, who teaches, and writes about, white-collar crime. The problem is evident in the “brand” that Henning has chosen for his columns. Note the deliberate exclusion of the word “crime.” What is Henning doing – writing a column (from Detroit) on the lives of “white-collar” employees, professionals, and officers? His very brand is based on the bowdlerization of his academic specialty through euphemism.

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Germany’s Leaders Denounce those who “Take an Axe to European Solidarity”

By William K. Black
Kilkenny, Ireland: November 7, 2014

The news in Europe (I’m in Kilkenny, Ireland participating in Kilkenomics V) is filled with coverage of the latest travesty of the Troika – a leak disclosed the “let’s make a (secret) deal to virtually eliminate your corporate taxes” practices of Luxembourg under the reign of Jean-Claude Juncker. The leaks show that over 300 corporations have used such deals to produce what German leaders aptly describe as “non-taxation.” I described the resultant “magical fairyland” of tax havens that resulted in an earlier column. Juncker is the newly appointed head of the European Commission (EC). The EC is the most deranged member of that Troika – the home turf of those that insist on inflicting the most ruinous austerity and the war on workers’ wages. Juncker was chosen by the Germans to run the EC as a reward for his willingness to support these twin German diktats.

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The “Magical Fairyland” of Corporate Tax Scams

By William K. Black

I’m in Kilkenny, Ireland where Kilkenomics V begins tonight. Kilkenomics is the economics festival in which economists and professional comedians combine to produce a blunt presentation of issues involving economics that have enormous effects on our lives. One of the traditions of Kilkenomics is that the travesty of some act by the Troika (the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Commission (EC)) is revealed just in time to kick off the festival. This year, the Troika produced a double-barreled blast. First, the ECB’s November 2010 letter extorting the Irish government to inflict austerity and produce a second Great Recession in Ireland was leaked.

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Piketty’s Neoliberal Capital

Let’s get this out of the way. I agree with Piketty’s overall conclusion in Capital about inequality, that: the distribution of wealth in many industrial nations is highly unequal, wealth concentration has been increasing; and there is a high likelihood that the extent of wealth inequality will continue to grow unless appropriate fiscal policy is used to reverse current trends. However, I don’t agree with:

— the framework he uses to define and specify “capital”;

— the way he looks at Government finance and net worth; and

— the fiscal policy proposals he offers to reduce Inequality and put a stop to current trends of growth in the capital to income ratio.

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The New York Times Claims Democratic Leaders in Latin America are “Military Dictators”

By William K. Black

The NYT wrote an extraordinarily arrogant, insulting, dishonest, and hypocritical editorial attacking a series of Latin American democracies. The editorial manages to insult their democratically elected representatives and their electorates. The title of the editorial is “South America’s New Caudillos.” The editorial does not bother to define the word. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines caudillo as “a Latin American military dictator.”

The editorial claims that it was prompted by the democratic reelection of Evo Morales as President of Bolivia. The editorial concedes that he was reelected in a well-deserved, democratic “landslide.”

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