Matt Taibbi on another improvised explosive device buried in bank deregulation – one that could lead to the biggest bang yet:
Banks aren’t just buying stuff, they’re buying whole industrial processes. They’re buying oil that’s still in the ground, the tankers that move it across the sea, the refineries that turn it into fuel, and the pipelines that bring it to your home. Then, just for kicks, they’re also betting on the timing and efficiency of these same industrial processes in the financial markets – buying and selling oil stocks on the stock exchange, oil futures on the futures market, swaps on the swaps market, etc.
Allowing one company to control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets, is an open invitation to commit mass manipulation. It’s something akin to letting casino owners who take book on NFL games during the week also coach all the teams on Sundays….
The irony was incredible. After fucking up so badly that the government had to give them federal bank charters and bottomless wells of free cash to save their necks, the feds gave Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley hall passes to become cross-species monopolistic powers with almost limitless reach into any sectors of the economy.
Read more here.
Joe Stiglitz points out another casualty of widening inequality:
Trust is what makes contracts, plans and everyday transactions possible; it facilitates the democratic process, from voting to law creation, and is necessary for social stability. It is essential for our lives. It is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round….
Inequality in America is degrading our trust. For our own sake, and for the sake of future generations, it’s time to start rebuilding it.
Read more here.
Sean McElwee and Lew Daly write about the disconnect between valuing oil and gas reserves and valuing the future of our planet:
A whopping two-thirds of reserves listed on markets are potentially worthless.
Steve Waygood, head of Sustainability Research at Aviva Investors, a global asset management company, sums up the conundrum: “Valuations of the oil and gas sector still assume that they will be able to take all proven and probable reserves out of the ground and burn them. Based on credible data we cannot be allowed to do that…” So in much the same way that pre-Great Recession housing prices were based on the assumption that their values would continue to rise and homeowners would pay off their mortgages, the valuation of oil and gas companies is based on the assumption that they will be able to extract resources that must remain in the ground.
Read their piece here.
Speaking of bringing bad things to life, Eduardo Porter writes in the business section of The New York Times:
Company executives are paid to maximize profits, not to behave ethically. Evidence suggests that they behave as corruptly as they can, within whatever constraints are imposed by law and reputation….
And the furious rush of corporate cash into the political process — which differs from bribery in that companies pay politicians to change laws rather than bureaucrats to ignore them — is unlikely to foment ethical behavior.
Read the story here.
From the same issue of the Times, Gretchen Morgenson's excellent piece on TBTF (too big to fail):
Reducing the perils of gargantuan institutions — and the threat to taxpayers — is an idea that seems to be taking hold in Washington. To be sure, the army arguing for change is far outgunned by the battalions of bankers and lobbyists working to maintain the status quo. But some combatants seeking reform believe they are making headway.
Read it here.