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America is a Banana Republic
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bucheon bum



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Location: DC area

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Captain Corea wrote:
Gopher wrote:
Kuros: does the United States merely resemble a foreign-capital-dominated, monocrop-producing, export-oriented, Central-American, oligarchic republic, or is it actually one?


Is someone actually proposing that the US is a Central American state?


Umm that is what the title of this thread suggests.
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Gopher



Joined: 04 Jun 2005

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kuros wrote:
The whole situation is absurd.


So are the B. Obama administration's non-lobbyist entrance qualifications. Who remains? Career bureaucrats and military officers, I suppose. We could always promote them to that tier. But that creates problems as well.

A subcabinet-level tier has existed since 1947 (and earlier in some departments). Civilian political appointees loyal to the president and his polices have always filled it. If the president makes it too difficult for nominees to get in (have you seen B. Obama's questionnaire?), then she or he must promote career bureaucrats and/or military officers -- the only remaining qualified ones. But this means she or he looses a degree of political control over the govt at this level, cedes it to the professional bureaucracy and the officer corps.

B. Obama probably does not want to do that. But he cannot find appointees who match his criteria, at least not yet.

So what options remain? Hence T. Gietner all alone at the Department of Treasury in the midst of this crisis...

________


Pay him no attention, Bucheon Bum. He never asks serious questions. Either that or he knows little about anything we discuss here and confirms it every time he "just asks a question."


Last edited by Gopher on Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gopher wrote:
Kuros wrote:
The whole situation is absurd.


So is the B. Obama administration's non-lobbyist entrance qualifications.


Yes. Which he's violated. Which is better than actually continuing to shoot this country in the foot.

Quote:
Who remains?


Oh I can do this forever. Pelosi seems intent on using her power to push trade and union wars. Reid is just ineffective. Dodd, an alumnus of my law school, is doing a terrible job at running the banking committee. Snowe and Collins, the ME moderates, dumped some of the few good provisions in the stimulus for more earmarks and tax cuts. The Blue Dogs are nestling themselves in the bosom of the finance industry.

Its bad.
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Gopher



Joined: 04 Jun 2005

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leaving T. Gietner alone at the Department of Treasury is a classic example of cutting of one's nose to spite one's face. So to avoid "continuing to shoot this country in the foot," B. Obama has chosen to cut off our nose to spite our face.

What is the qualitative difference?


________



Re: your second response: I do not think we are discussing the same issue here.
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Kuros



Joined: 27 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gopher wrote:

Re: your second response: I do not think we are discussing the same issue here.


I don't know. I'm talking about generally:

A gov't (and baby boomer populace) so beholden to the financial industry that they've abandoned Brandeis' doctrine that 'Sunlight is the best disinfectant' and instead chosen to flush toxic assets down with what will total almost 2 trillion dollars (1/6th of total US GDP or basically our GDP 'growth' over the last five years).

I'm talking about generational theft, as baby boomers grasp for their retirement without ensuring that our generation has enough resources left for the wealth creation necessary to fund social services set in place for their retirement.

I'm talking about a political system that is broken and bankrupt.
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Gopher



Joined: 04 Jun 2005

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kuros: time to step away from these hyperbolically-pessimistic "banana-republic" articles coming from the inveterately sensationalist media and enjoy life for a change.

And are you not the same one who posted that chart here not so long ago?

And oh yeah: do not look at me on any of this, I voted for J. McCain. You remain the ones who made this extremely high-priced bed...Toss and turn in it.
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RJjr



Joined: 17 Aug 2006
Location: Turning on a Lamp

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fox wrote:
RJjr wrote:
It's only a matter of time, when things get really bad in the USA and Europe, particularly Britain, that the phrase "failure of democracy" will frequently be in the newspapers. Just like how there hasn't been true capitalism and the problems these days have nothing to do with capitalism, there hasn't been true democracy either. Our leaders are all bought off by lobbyists who, in effect, are the true rulers in America with the politicians being mere figureheads and pawns.


Lobbyists buying off the people you voted into office doesn't make the system any less democratic than it would be without said lobbyists. You just vote in people incredibly succeptible to corruption.

Stop voting for people based on how many times you see their name on the way to work during election season -- or how many times you see them pop up on tv for that matter -- and maybe you'll get some less corruptible leaders.

Either way, the system is just as democratic as it would be without the lobbyists. The lobbyists are just taking advantage of the American people's systematically poor choices in their democratically chosen leaders.


Just because people vote doesn't mean it's a democracy. Democracy is government by we the people, not bankers and corporations. Our votes are as big of a joke as the purple fingers in Iraq. Laughing
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RJjr



Joined: 17 Aug 2006
Location: Turning on a Lamp

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gopher wrote:
Are you people truly so bankrupt of vocabulary and metaphors that you honestly cannot describe, critique, or simply discuss American affairs these days without resorting to easy clichés, tried-and-true propagandistic devices? "Fascist regime," "socialism," "banana republic." Bah.


You might as well get used to it. As long taxes continue to be taken from the successful working men and given to banker losers, and as long as America's debt to equity is an embarrassment we're going to keep telling it like it is.
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RJjr



Joined: 17 Aug 2006
Location: Turning on a Lamp

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gopher wrote:
If lobbyists maintain such a grip on the American govt why is T. Geitner sitting alone at the Department of Treasury -- without any deputies, undersecretaries, or assistant secretaries, or others at that political-appointee level to serve him?


You answered your own question.
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RJjr



Joined: 17 Aug 2006
Location: Turning on a Lamp

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gopher wrote:
And oh yeah: do not look at me on any of this, I voted for J. McCain. You remain the ones who made this extremely high-priced bed...Toss and turn in it.


You voted for J. "Spend Away America's Future" McCain instead of voting for B. "Spend Away America's Future" Obama? Impressive. Since they're both in Washington spending away America's future, we'll all be tossing and turning in it. Laughing
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Gopher



Joined: 04 Jun 2005

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RJjr wrote:
...we're going to keep telling it like it is.


When you can only employ such metaphors as "fascist state," "socialist state," or "banana republic," you clearly have no idea how to go about telling it like it is. You cannot look at it and describe it in its own terms, relative to its own position in space and time.

As I said, utterly unimaginative and bankrupt. Not unlike those angry Canadians who could think of nothing else but to copy a Middle-Eastern form when protesting W. Bush a week or so ago. Thank God those who originally coined the phrase "Banana Republic" possessed infinite more creativity when looking at and then describing what they saw in Central America than you nonthinking people who look at and clumsily grope for some way to describe what you see in the United States but in the end simply cannot...
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mises



Joined: 05 Nov 2007
Location: retired

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In a recent debate N. Robuini worried that the US was beginning to look like a dysfunctional South American state.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102312504

Here are a couple others on that theme:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/25/AR2009032502226_pf.html
Welcome to America, the World's Scariest Emerging Market
Quote:

By Desmond Lachman
Sunday, March 29, 2009; B01

Back in the spring of 1998, when Boris Yeltsin was still at Russia's helm, I led a group of global investors to Moscow to find out firsthand where the Russian economy was headed. My long career with the International Monetary Fund and on Wall Street had taken me to "emerging markets" throughout Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, and I thought I'd seen it all. Yet I still recall the shock I felt at a meeting in Russia's dingy Ministry of Finance, where I finally realized how a handful of young oligarchs were bringing Russia's economy to ruin in the pursuit of their own selfish interests, despite the supposed brilliance of Anatoly Chubais, Russia's economic czar at the time.

At the time, I could not imagine that anything remotely similar could happen in the United States. Indeed, I shared the American conceit that most emerging-market nations had poorly developed institutions and would do well to emulate Washington and Wall Street. These days, though, I'm hardly so confident. Many economists and analysts are worrying that the United States might go the way of Japan, which suffered a "lost decade" after its own real estate market fell apart in the early 1990s. But I'm more concerned that the United States is coming to resemble Argentina, Russia and other so-called emerging markets, both in what led us to the crisis, and in how we're trying to fix it.

Over the past year, I've been getting Russia flashbacks as I witness the AIG debacle as well as the collapse of Bear Sterns and a host of other financial institutions. Much like the oligarchs did in Russia, a small group of traders and executives at onetime venerable institutions have brought the U.S. and global financial systems to their knees with their reckless risk-taking -- with other people's money -- for their personal gain.

Negotiating with Argentina's top officials during their multiple financial crises in the 1990s was always an ordeal, and sparring with Domingo Cavallo, the country's Harvard-trained finance minister at the time, was particularly trying. One always had the sense that, despite their supreme arrogance, the country's leaders never had a coherent economic strategy and that major decisions were always made on the run. I never thought that was how policy was made in the United States -- until, that is, I saw how totally at sea Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy F. Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke have appeared so many times during our country's ongoing economic and financial storm.

The parallels between U.S. policymaking and what we see in emerging markets are clearest in how we've mishandled the banking crisis. We delude ourselves that our banks face liquidity problems, rather than deeper solvency problems, and we try to fix it all on the cheap just like any run-of-the-mill emerging market economy would try to do. And after years of lecturing Asian and Latin American leaders about the importance of consistency and transparency in sorting out financial crises, we fail on both counts: In March 2008, one investment bank, Bear Stearns, is bailed out because it is thought to be too interconnected with the rest of the banking system to fail. However, six months later, another investment bank, Lehman Brothers -- for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from Bear Stearns in its financial market inter-connectedness -- is allowed to fail, with catastrophic effects on global financial markets.

In visits to Asian capitals during the region's financial crisis in the late 1990s, I often heard Asian reformers such as Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew or Japan's Eisuke Sakakibara complain about how the incestuous relationship between governments and large Asian corporate conglomerates stymied real economic change. How fortunate, I thought then, that the United States was not similarly plagued by crony capitalism! However, watching Goldman Sachs's seeming lock on high-level U.S. Treasury jobs as well as the way that Republicans and Democrats alike tiptoed around reforming Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae -- among the largest campaign contributors to Congress -- made me wonder if the differences between the United States and the Asian economies were only a matter of degree.

On Wall Street there is an old joke that the longest river in the emerging-market economies is "de Nile." Yet how often do U.S. leaders respond to growing signs of economic dysfunctionality by spouting nationalistic rhetoric that echoes the speeches of Latin American demagogues like Peru's Alan Garcia in the 1980s and Argentina's Carlos Menem in the 1990s? (Even Garcia, currently in his second go-around as Peru's president, seems to have grown up somewhat.) But instead of facing our problems we extol the resilience of the U.S. economy, praise the most productive workers in the world, and go on and on about America's inherent ability to extricate itself from any crisis. And we ignore our proclivity as a nation to spend, year in year out, more than we produce, to put off dealing with long-term problems, and to engage in grandiose long-term programs that as a nation we can ill afford.

A singular characteristic of an emerging market heading for deep trouble is a seemingly suicidal tendency to become overly indebted to foreign creditors. That tendency underlay the spectacular collapse of the Thai, Indonesian and Korean currencies in 1997. It also led Russia to default on its debt in 1998 and plunged Argentina into its economic depression in 2001. Yet we too seem to have little difficulty becoming increasingly indebted to the tune of a few hundred billion dollars a year. To make matters worse, we do so to countries like China, Russia and an assortment of Middle Eastern oil producers -- none of which is particularly well disposed to us.

Like Argentina in its worst moments, we never seem to question whether it is reasonable to expect foreigners to keep financing our extravagance, and we forget the bad things that happen to the Argentinas or Hungarys of the world when foreigners stop financing their excesses. So instead of laying out a realistic plan for increasing our national savings, we choose not to face up to the Social Security and Medicare crises that lie ahead, embarking instead on massive spending programs that -- whatever their long-run merits might be -- we simply cannot afford.

After experiencing a few emerging-market crises, I get the sense of watching the same movie over and over. All too often, a tragic part of that movie is the failure of the countries' policymakers to hear the loud cries of canaries in the coal mine. Before running up further outsized budget deficits, should we not heed the markets that now see a 10 percent probability that the U.S. government will default on its sovereign debt in the next five years? And should we not be paying close attention to the Chinese central bank governor's musings that he does not feel comfortable with the $1 trillion of U.S. government debt that the Chinese central bank already owns, let alone adding to those holdings?

In the twilight of my career, when I am hopefully wiser than before, I have come to regret how the IMF and the U.S. Treasury all too often lectured leaders in emerging markets on how to "get their house in order" -- without the slightest thought that the United States might fare no better when facing a major economic crisis. Now, I fear time is running out for our own policymakers to mend their ways and offer real leadership to extricate the United States from its worst economic calamity since the 1930s. If we insist on improvising and not facing our real problems, we might soon lose our status as a country to be emulated and join the ranks of those nations we have patronized for so long.


http://optionarmageddon.ml-implode.com/2008/09/21/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it/

Quote:
“Is the Worst Yet to Come?”

by Rolfe Winkler

September 21, 2008

Will it ever end? For more than a year, the financial system has struggled to function, stricken as it is with economic Ebola. Cash is the only cure, and banks have raised almost $400 billion. That’s not nearly enough, however, so the federal government has committed to various bailouts that will cost hundreds of billions over time. The most expensive yet - a new super-agency to buy bad debt - may eventually cost north of $1 trillion.

As bad as the situation is, we’re in deeper trouble than most realize. The virus infecting banks - too much debt - is spreading to the federal government. If Washington falls victim, we could be headed for another Great Depression.

Trillions of dollars in bad loans infected bank balance sheets during the housing bubble. As house prices started to decline nationwide, those loans turned virulent, dropping in value and robbing banks of the capital they need to stay in business. The disease spread so quickly because banks have little uncommitted capital to defend against losses.

During the housing bubble days, bankers lent as much as possible, confident that housing prices would never go down. Consequently, they were left vulnerable to even a small decline.

Understanding why too much “leverage” can kill a bank is crucial to understanding why the credit crisis is dropping major financials like flies, and why the federal government is vulnerable.

Like all businesses, banking involves risk. If, for instance, borrowers default on their mortgages, the bank may struggle to pay back its lenders. So it keeps cash in reserve. But reserves earn no profits for the bank, so it minimizes them.

Assets make money, and reserves provide protection. Putting the first in the numerator and the second in the denominator, a bank’s “leverage ratio” measures how much risk a bank is taking to make money. A higher ratio means more potential for profit but also less protection against loss. A sound bank should have a leverage ratio around 10-1. The major Wall Street banks operated with leverage ratios north of 30-1. And when you consider that much of their capital was bogus “deferred tax assets,” Fannie and Freddie has leverage ratios near 250:1.

If leverage gets high enough, even small losses will cause a bank’s creditors to panic. Worried that cash in reserve won’t be sufficient to pay them back, they cancel credit. When a bank loses access to credit, it is put out of business.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and even Baltimore’s Constellation Energy Group all relied on credit in order to do business. When their credit disappeared, they ceased to function independently.

At this point, much of the U.S. financial system would be out of business without taxpayer support. Banks need credit to operate, and Uncle Sam has stepped in as creditor of last resort. In addition to the trillion dollars of bailout money on the way, taxpayers have pumped another trillion-plus into the banking system via the Federal Home Loan Banks and the Federal Reserve.

Before the credit crisis, the Fed only accepted the highest quality paper as collateral for its loans. Now it accepts risky mortgage-backed securities and even equities, exposing taxpayers to significant risk. The FHLBs - off-balance-sheet entities of the federal government such as Fannie and Freddie - have advanced more than $900 billion to banks, up nearly $300 billion since the credit crisis hit.

If the U.S. financial system relies on government funding to borrow, what will happen if the federal government’s creditors take a walk? Consider Argentina, which in 2002 devalued its currency to pay off a crushing debt burden. Foreign capital fled the country, the banking system collapsed, inflation hit 80 percent and unemployment reached 25 percent as the economy sank into a depression.

That could never happen here, argue some. The $10 trillion national debt is “only” 70 percent of GDP, leaving the government plenty of borrowing capacity. But that ignores $60 trillion of projected liabilities for Medicare and Social Security, according to economist John Williams.

What’s true of companies is true of countries: The more they borrow, the more they operate at the mercy of creditors. The more they borrow, the more violent their inevitable failure.

Under no scenario can Uncle Sam raise the trillions it needs to meet all these obligations. No tax rate is high enough, no discretionary spending cuts draconian enough. And there is no creditor of last resort for the U.S. Treasury. If default implies an Argentina-like scenario, that would leave us with only two options. The first is to print money; Mr. Williams says this would lead to “hyperinflation on the order of 1920s Germany.”

The other option is to eliminate Medicare and Social Security.


My two cents is that the primary risk now is that the US suffers a fate similar to Argentina, and significantly worse than Japan.
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Captain Corea



Joined: 28 Feb 2005
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bucheon bum wrote:
Captain Corea wrote:
Gopher wrote:
Kuros: does the United States merely resemble a foreign-capital-dominated, monocrop-producing, export-oriented, Central-American, oligarchic republic, or is it actually one?


Is someone actually proposing that the US is a Central American state?


Umm that is what the title of this thread suggests.


As far as I know, Banana Republic does not necessarily equal Central American.

That's why I asked.

So how does the title of this thread suggest Central American?
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Gopher



Joined: 04 Jun 2005

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Captain Corea wrote:
As far as I know, Banana Republic does not necessarily equal Central American.


Then you obviously know nothing at all about the term or its origins.

Why not look it up? Educate yourself. And I mean educate yourself. I do not mean, quick, go to Google and/or Wikepedia...
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TheUrbanMyth



Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Location: It's not a superiority complex when you really are superior

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2009 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While the term "banana republic" usually means a Central American country, it can be and has been applied to some Eastern European countries as well. It is not a geographically constricted term.
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