Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Will Wall Street Ever Face Justice?"

Phil Angelides, a former state treasurer of California and the chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission at the New York Times:
Four years after the disintegration of the financial system, Americans have, rightfully, a gnawing feeling that justice has not been served. Claims of financial fraud against companies like Citigroup and Bank of America have been settled for pennies on the dollar, with no admission of wrongdoing. Executives who ran companies that made, packaged and sold trillions of dollars in toxic mortgages and mortgage-backed securities remain largely unscathed. 

Meager resources have been applied to investigate the financial assault on our country, which wiped away trillions of dollars in household wealth and has resulted in 24 million people jobless or underemployed. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which Congress created to examine the full scope of the crisis, was given a budget of $9.8 million — roughly one-seventh of the budget of Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations did its work on the financial crisis with only a dozen or so Congressional staff members. 

False "Centrism" on Tax Rates

James Kwak at Baseline Scenario on the skewed notion of "bi-partisan compromise" and "consensus" over cutting tax rates:
Today’s tax rates were set by George W. Bush in 2001 and are considerably lower than the rates that prevailed under Bill Clinton and, for that matter, during most of the history of the income tax. The tax rates on capital gains and dividends, in particular, are at their lowest levels since before World War II. For those of you who care about global competitiveness, total taxes in the United States are lower than in most other advanced industrialized countries. Given the expected growth in the national debt due to demographic shifts and health care inflation, the obvious thing to do would be to simply return to Clinton-era tax rates.

The need to lower rates is not economic, but political. The simple fact is that given the Republican Party of Grover Norquist, you cannot get a single prominent Republican to sign on to a tax plan that does not cut tax rates. Ergo, if you want to call yourself bipartisan, you have to cut rates. But that doesn’t mean it’s right; that just means that the Republicans have successfully eliminated their negotiating room, forcing would-be centrists to cave in to their demands...

Bowles-Simpson, Domenici-Rivlin, and the Gang of Six would all drastically reduce tax revenue from the levels dictated by current law.
Remember, under current law the Bush tax cuts all expire. These “centrist” plans only “increase” tax revenue by first adopting a baseline in which the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.