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Government & Politics

Paul Volcker Slams 'Broken' Financial System, Banks, Regulators

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  • Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker scrapped a prepared speech he had planned to deliver at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on Thursday (Sep 23), and instead delivered a blistering, off-the-cuff critique leveled at nearly every corner of the financial system.
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  • Volcker Spares No One in Broad Critique
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William Alden, Huffington Post

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Paul Volcker pulled no punches Thursday (Sep 23) in a speech at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, criticizing nearly all aspects of the nation's financial system, which he said is "broken."

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The former chairman of the Fed and current chairman of the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board had harsh words for banks, regulators, business schools and the larger economy. According to the Wall Street Journal, Volcker improvised the remarks, having decided not to read his prepared speech. He called for "structural changes in markets and market regulation."

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Investment banks, he said, according to the WSJ, have become "trading machines instead of investment banks [leading to] encroachment on the territory of commercial banks, and commercial banks encroached on the territory of others in a way that couldn't easily be managed by the old supervisory system."

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Think Again: Inequality and America’s Antiquated Politics

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  • Economic inequality in America is growing to proportions we have never seen before, threatening not only our social structure but also our democracy as the U.S. Supreme Court equates the right to spend money on politics with freedom of speech
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  • Americans Vastly Underestimate Wealth Inequality, Support 'More Equal Distribution Of Wealth'
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  • Special Report | Poverty in the U.S.
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Eric Alterman, Center for American Progress

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It’s ironic—though perhaps that’s too kind a term—to note that at the moment the U.S. poverty rate is reaching a 15-year high the nation is engaged in whether to offer additional tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 per year. (For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income. For a family of four it was $22,050.)

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This despite the fact that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed the short-term effects of 11 potential options for dealing with the present unemployment crisis and found that retaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy offered the least powerful “bang for the buck,” owing to wealthy people’s proclivity to save rather than spend additional income. And yes, it just so happens that the Forbes 400 came out during the same week, and lo and behold, “The super-rich got even wealthier this year.” (CAP's Matt Yglesias offers a few ideas about this phenomenon as well.)

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Americans Vastly Underestimate Wealth Inequality, Support 'More Equal Distribution Of Wealth', William AldenHuffington Post

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  • Americans vastly underestimate the degree of wealth inequality in America, and we believe that the distribution should be far more equitable than it actually is, according to a new study.
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  • Class Warfare from the Top Down
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  • Third world America
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Special Report | Poverty in the U.S., David Culver, ed., Evergreene Digest

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  • Poverty Rate In U.S. Saw Record Increase In 2009: 1 In 7 Americans Are Poor,
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  • US Poverty Data Tells Only Half the Story...
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By the Numbers, Public Workers Defy Anti-Government Stereotypes

Reactionary politics have perverted the concept of "shared sacrifice" into a standoff between the public and private economic realms. But drawing this artificial divide keeps workers from finding common ground in challenging corporate power from the bottom up.

Michelle Chen, Common Dreams

Want to get a disgruntled worker really mad? Just point to his arch enemy: the civil servant. You know, the shiftless paper-pusher, fattened on our tax dollars, the epitome of “waste, fraud and abuse.”

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Alright, this might sound harsh to those of us who still think the government has some useful functions in society today. But bashing on the government and its workers has become a favorite pastime for conservatives like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has argued that public employees enjoy undeservedly lavish compensation packages while their private-sector counterparts grapple with shrinking paychecks. So the logic goes: Why should struggling families' tax dollars finance the bloated wages of bureaucrats?

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Bleeding-Heart Republicans

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  • The GOP Stands Up for Downtrodden Minority: The Super-Rich
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  • The Angry Rich
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Jim Hightower, Common Dreams

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Thomas Sklarski

Stuart Carlson

Who says that Republican congress-critters don't care about minorities in our society? Why, at this very moment, they are pushing hard to pass a $372 billion federal program to lift the economic fortunes of just one minority group - a far more generous proposal than Barack Obama has even dared to contemplate.

The focus of the GOP's generosity is a true American minority: the richest one-tenth of one percent of our people. Living in penthouse ghettos like Manhattan's Upper East Side, this tiny minority of about 120,000 people (who have an average annual income of $8 million) would get some $3 million each over the next decade from the Republican proposal. Doesn't that just make your heart bleed with empathy?

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The Angry Rich, Paul Krugman, New York Times | NY

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  • Self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.
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  • Third world America
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Health Insurance costs going up, and reformers won’t admit it

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  • Threat from Sebelius defies economic reality
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  • Steep rate hikes on way for individual health insurance
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E. Thomas McClanahan, Kansas City Star | KS

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In March, the Democrats passed their big bill and gained sole possession of the U.S. health care system -- lock, stock and rate increase. Politically, they own it all.

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Wait. Rate increase? Oops. All that stuff about "bending the cost curve down?" Never mind.

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Earlier this month, several health insurers began announcing premium increases, and to the acute discomfort of the Obama administration, they laid part of the blame on the health care bill.

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Steep rate hikes on way for individual health insurance, Carol M. Ostrom, Seattle Times | WA
Double-digit rate increases are hitting most individual health-insurance plans in Washington state, hurting jobless workers and worrying insurance regulators.

The Myth Of A 'Christian Nation'

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That the US is not a Christian nation is historical fact--not an opinion--worth remembering.

A. James Rudin, Religion News Service/Huffington Post

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is credited with saying that "everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

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Some leaders of the religious right would have us believe that America was founded as a "Christian nation." The facts, however, say otherwise.

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While the Founding Fathers, with their diverse Christian backgrounds, had every opportunity to make the fledgling United States into a "Christian nation," the factual record reveals they consciously refused to do so.

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The Right's Shameful Muslim-Bashing, The Progress Report

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  • "If the prospect of losing our Constitution to religious government frightens you, don't worry about the tiny Muslim-American minority. Worry about the anti-mosque majority Gingrich is working to mobilize." --Slate Magazine's Will Saletan
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  • Zero Tolerance
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Third world America

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  • Collapsing bridges, street lights turned off, cuts to basic services: the decline of a superpower
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  • Poverty Rate In U.S. Saw Record Increase In 2009: 1 In 7 Americans Are Poor
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  • The United States of Fear
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  • Empire of Illusion
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Luiza Ch. Savage, MacLeans

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor Ken Mitchell

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Danny Wilcox Frazier/Redux/ Robert Galbraith/Reuters/ Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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In February, the board of commissioners of Ohio’s Ashtabula County faced a scene familiar to local governments across America: a budget shortfall. They began to cut spending and reduced the sheriff’s budget by 20 per cent. A law enforcement agency staff that only a few years ago numbered 112, and had subsequently been pared down to 70, was cut again to 49 people and just one squad car for a county of 1,900 sq. km along the shore of Lake Erie. The sheriff’s department adapted. “We have no patrol units. There is no one on the streets. We respond to only crimes in progress. We don’t respond to property crimes,” deputy sheriff Ron Fenton told Maclean’s. The county once had a “very proactive” detective division in narcotics. Now, there is no detective division. “We are down to one evidence officer and he just runs the evidence room in case someone wants to claim property,” said Fenton. “People are getting property stolen, their houses broken into, and there is no one investigating. We are basically just writing up a report for the insurance company.”

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If a county without police seems like a weird throwback to an earlier, frontier-like moment in American history, it is not the only one. “Back to the Stone Age” is the name of a seminar organized in March by civil engineers at Indiana’s Purdue University for local county supervisors interested in saving money by breaking up paved roads and turning them back to gravel. While only some paved roads in the state have been broken up, “There are a substantial number of conversations going on,” John Habermann, who manages a program at Purdue that helps local governments take care of infrastructure, told Maclean’s. “We presented a lot of talking points so that the county supervisors can talk logically back to elected officials when the question is posed,” he said. The state of Michigan had similar conversations. It has converted at least 50 miles of paved road to gravel in the last few years.

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Poverty Rate In U.S. Saw Record Increase In 2009: 1 In 7 Americans Are Poor, Hope Yen and Liz Sidoti, Huffington Post

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  • Experts say a jump in the poverty rate could mean that the liberal viewpoint – social constraints prevent the poor from working – will gain steam over the conservative position that the poor have opportunities to work but choose not to because they get too much help.
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  • Special Report | American Labor in 2010
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  • The jobs emergency
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The United States of Fear, Bill Quigley, Common Dreams
You tell me what happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave since September 11, 2001.

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Empire of Illusion, Jeff Dietrich, The Catholic Agitator

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  • It's all about spectacle and debauchery. People are so disconnected from reality that they don't know how to read what is happening--they cannot grasp that the walls are tumbling down--and so they retreat into absurdities. This is the disease gripping American society today.
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  • Building a Nation of Know-Nothings
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  • Lady Gaga: Pop Star for a Country and an Empire in Decline
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