News and Noteworthy this Week

Here are articles, blog-posts, podcasts, and other material recently released about issues near and dear to us.


From the Week of April 14 – April 20

1. A new experiment shows how money buys access to Congress This may seem obvious but the Supreme Court and Congress want to deny this. If a constituent asks for a meeting, they have a 2% chance of meeting the member of Congress or Chief of Staff. The odds are more than five times higher for a “local campaign donor”. Good to have objective evidence. Also, a nice example of clear, meticulous research.

2. Retiring SEC Lawyer: Revolving Door Causes Weak Enforcement Weak enforcement creates incentives for wrong-doing. If there are only fines for bad behavior, then it just becomes a cost of doing business. We can see how that plays out in the General Motors ignition switch case. It is cheaper to pay the fines (and any liability) than to fix the problem. The same dynamic takes place on Wall Street, only more so.

3. Corporations Bring Home Biggest Slice of Economic Pie Since 1929.

4. Thomas Piketty has mined 200 years of data to support his theory that capitalism does not work If you are in NYC, you can hear Piketty and others here

5. NASA study: Inequality will lead to famine, collapse of civilization NASA study goes back 5000 years and thinks Piketty (see previous story) is understating the problem.

All of the above stories are connected. Act now while there may still be time.

6. Wall Street Making Money Off the Poor Trailer Parks Lure Wall Street Investors The investors note “It’s expensive to be poor” and, because the residents can’t afford to move, “We’re like a Waffle House where everyone is chained to their booths.” (Note: if you are on Wall Street, having “captive customers” is a good thing.)

7. What is Money? NY Times Sunday Book Review of “Money” by Felix Martin.


From the Week of April 7 – April 13

1. Arundhati Roy on Corporatism, Nationalism and World’s Largest Vote on Democracy Now! Billed as “Is India on a Totalitarian Path?” is interesting for that alone but she also covers global corporatism and, an issue we think needs more attention, how foundations skew the public discourse towards ideas that favor the wealthy and corporate interests. This part begins at about 42:00 into the show.

2. Good news (for a change) Heeding Pressure From Students, Harvard Pledges To Take Climate Change More Seriously Good to see students getting more active and having an impact. Also, may be a small step forward on a crucial problem.

3. ‘Reverse Auctions’ Draw Scrutiny
Supporters say FedBid and similar companies encourage competition, but critics say they prompt businesses to submit unrealistically low bids to shut out rivals.

4.OFF THE CHARTS: Corporate Profits Grow and Wages Slide
As a proportion of the overall economy, corporate profits were at their highest since 1929, while wages and benefits were at their lowest for any year ever measured.

5. DEALBOOK: Credit Suisse Is Said to Be Facing Double-Barreled Inquiries
As Credit Suisse negotiates with the Justice Department over its liability for involvement in tax shelters, New York State has opened its own inquiry.

6. DEALBOOK: Banks Ordered to Add Capital to Limit Risks
The requirement could force the eight biggest banks in the United States to find as much as an additional $68 billion to put their operations on firmer financial footing, according to regulators’ estimates. (Not nearly enough for the stability of the financial system but a step in the right direction and more than Europe is doing).

7. TODAY’S ECONOMIST: Heroes of Banking Reform
Progress is being made by advocates of stricter bank regulation, an economist writes.

8. HIGH & LOW FINANCE: Sacrificing Sense for Speed in Markets
Today’s stock markets operate at blinding speed, using bewilderingly complicated processes untempered by common sense or accountability.

9. Dealbook: Thought Secure, Pooled Pensions Teeter and Fall
The pensions of millions of Americans are being threatened because of trouble in a part of the retirement world long considered so safe that no one gave it a second thought.

10. Your Money: Customers Can Lose When Banks Shuffle Payments
While some banks have made changes, half of the country’s big banks still may reorder your daily transactions in a way that maximizes the potential fees you will pay if you overdraw your account, according to a report released this week by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

11. OFF THE CHARTS: Total Taxes on Wages Are Rising
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that the average tax on wage income is climbing in many countries.

12. DEALBOOK: Detroit Wins Judge’s Nod for Contract Settlement
A federal judge on Friday approved the city’s latest attempt to extricate itself from some long-term financial contracts that have been costing it tens of millions of dollars a year.

From the Week of March 31 – April 6

1. CHECKING THE BANKS: Tom Sgouros’s “marvelous book” came out “Checking the Banks” Gar Alperovitz says “This is a marvelous book! Well-written; even enjoyable to read—about local banking! Packed with information of importance, not only for the expert, but for anyone, activist or public official, who wants to get serious about building a new financial infrastructure from our increasingly challenged economy. Put it on top of your reading pile!”

2. Disorderly Conduct: Alexis Goldstein and Jesse Myerson just came out with their latest podcast “If I ruled the world”.

3. ExtraEnvironmentalist: Just came out with their latest podcast “Energy Slaves”. While you are there, you may also want to download the previous one “Positive Money”, too.

4. APPLIED SCIENCE: All Public Comments Are Welcome. Then What?
A new tool tries to determine whether federal agencies are taking citizens’ comments into account when formulating rules. PLease note: the paper say “We find that only comments written by fi nance professionals such as traders, asset managers,and bankers have” a demonstrable eff ect on the final rules. But that nuance was lost in the NY Times report of it. That article suggests that “the public” was found to have influence but, from a regulatory standpoint, anyone outside of government is “the public”.

5. FAIR GAME: A Lone Ranger of the 401(k)’s

6. WORST IS YET TO COME: In case you missed it (as we did) Matt Taibbi has a newish article on Megabanks spreading out into new businesses.

7.The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street
How a band of outsiders discovered that the stock market was rigged — and set out to change it.

8. DISRUPTIONS: A Tax Break to Anchor Tech Growth in San Francisco
Some companies housed in specific low-income areas of San Francisco receive breaks on taxes if they perform tasks that help improve their neighborhoods.

9. DEALBOOK: Swiss Regulator Opens Currency Inquiry
The Competition Commission said it was investigating possible collusion by eight financial institutions, including major Swiss, American and British banks.

10. Corporate Lobbyists Assail Tax Overhaul They Once Cheered
The undisputed winners of a legislative battle over the nation’s tax code are the lobbying shops, which often work to simply preserve the status quo.

11. HIGH & LOW FINANCE: Switching Names to Save on Taxes
Caterpillar ducked billions of dollars in United States income taxes with a simple strategy. Whether it was legal is open to debate.

12. DEALBOOK COLUMN: A Pivotal Financial Crisis Case, Ending With a Whimper
In a settlement with Kenneth Lewis, the former Bank of America chief, regulators took a strong case and rendered it weak.

13. Zero Poverty 2030: Let’s end extreme poverty
A petition will be presented to world leaders in April 2015, and the more signatures we can get, the more likely they will be to respond, and commit. We need hundreds of thousands of voices coming together around the world for this message to be heard.
Join by signing the petition, then share it with friends.

14. OFF THE CHARTS: Corporate Profits Grow and Wages Slide


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