A Zinger from Zizek

zizek I’m not a huge fan of Slavoj Zizek.  His stuff usually strikes me as being both scattershot and overly, self-consciously “theoretical.”  But he does have his powers.

TCT heartily endorses his recent take, as reported in Harper’s, on an issue at the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement:

Harper’s: You were critical of some of the slogans used by protesters in 2008 — “Save Main Street, Not Wall Street” for example. During Occupy Wall Street, people say, “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” Is there a better slogan to be had?

Zizek: The problem is that if you mobilize against the bad financial system you fall into a certain ideological trap, the fascist trap. This is the basic fascist idea: we have the truly productive strata — workers, industrial capitalists — and then we have the bad Jewish bankers who exploit them. The problem is not to fight Wall Street. The problem is, why does the system need Wall Street to function?…If Wall Street collapses, then Main Street collapses. That’s how the system works.

TCT would add that it’s also not very advisable to forget that, along with the financial sector, the supply-side bailouts included corporate capitalism’s beating heart — the automobile industry.

The Daily Delivery/Betrayal

fraudObama lied his ass off to us rubes who voted for him.  But he sure keeps his promises to the overclass owners of “politics,” doesn’t he?

Today’s delivery, with its typical confirmation of the “bipartisan” [translated from the Doublepseak: non-partisan, one-party] nature of the system, requires no further comment.  Even The New York Times can’t disguise this one:

White House Pares Its Financial Reform Plan

The Obama administration on Wednesday abandoned a…significant provision [of its alleged reform plan] in the face of widespread political and industry opposition.

At a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner announced that the administration had dropped one provision in its plan for a consumer financial protection agency — a requirement for banks and other financial services companies to offer “plain vanilla” products, like 30-year fixed mortgages and low-interest, low-fee credit cards.

Mr. Geithner’s decision followed a wave of criticism by Democrats and Republicans, some with close ties to the industry, that the plan was the first step toward a new regulatory regime in which the administration would be handing new powers to government bureaucrats approving and disapproving a wide array of financial products.

Let Them Eat Clarity!

capitalist_pig Hold shares in a crashed bank, hedge fund, or major corporation? Here’s your bailout check, sir!

Live down the social ladder and hold a credit card you struggle to pay? Will you get some bail-out money? Nope. Maybe a mandated reduction of your interest rate? Nope. A cap at least on your present rate? Nope again. You get this instead:

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to put new restrictions on the credit card industry, passing a bill whose backers say will make card-issuers spell out their terms in fewer words, using plain English.

And this:

Among other things, the Senate measure would prohibit companies from raising interest rates on existing balances unless a card holder was 60 days behind, and then it would require the rate to be restored to its previous level if payments were on time for six months. Consumers would have to be notified of rate increases 45 days in advance. And companies could not charge a late fee if they were late processing a payment.

Statements would have to be mailed 21 days before a payment was due. It would be harder for companies to issue cards to people under age 21. Rates could not be increased within the first year, and promotional rates would be in force for at least six months.

Oh, huzzah! Now — oh, glorious day! — it will be slightly easier to know exactly how the bailed-out class is using its publicly-provided do-over to continue raping you. And they will, of course, have to rape you according to some new, very slightly slower timetables. With the Democrats in power now, that much goes without saying, you see.

Why? Well, this is capitalism. Our overclass needs a chance to over-accumulate some more capital, so they can fuel their next “investment” bubble. Will it be in tulips? Stocks? Collateralized debt claims? Survival shelters? That’s for them to say, and for us to bend over and take.

To make a long, sickening story short: You know any new law is a disaster when it passes the Senate, as this great fart-in-your-face did, 90-to-5.

Obamanocchio: “Papa, I Want to be a Real Banker-Boy”

The proof that Brand Obama is merely a re-labeling of Brand Clinton and Brand Reagan could hardly be coming harder and faster.

The latest revelation is the new-and-not-improved economic give-away, which is as venal as it is hopelessly, laughably, moronically, decrepitly ill-targeted.

The great Doug Henwood puts it this way:

They’re worse than I expected, and I wasn’t expecting much in the first place (see: Obamamania, a febrile disease).

[I]t looks like the Treasury and the Fed will pump up some $250-500 billion to help hedge funds buy bad assets – with the FDIC guaranteeing the buyers against losses.  In internal administration battles, Geithner “successfully fought against” stricter rules on executive pay, and beat back the attempts to replace top maangement.

Of course, to say that Geithner won these battles is to say that Obama agreed with him. Once again, the embodiment of hope and change went with the status quo when he didn’t really have to. There would have been little political price to pay for putting the screws to the banksters.

This is looking more and more like Japan’s disastrous indulgence of their “zombie banks” in the 1990s than Sweden’s successful bailout, the model for the “nationalize them and clear the decks” approach. Instead of a few rough years, we’re likely to get a miserable decade.

For what it’s worth, my own view is this:

The problem is that making new loans is not only not the right answer, it’s not even possible. The Reagan Revolution /Great Restoration/New Democrats strategy of relying on credit expansion to fill the demand hole caused by heightened fucking of the working class is now at its final — and completely logical — end.  Either we start to reverse the basic class-fuck from above, or this depression continues to deepen.

Meanwhile, it’s important to ask:  What’s the dream outcome of what’s being attempted by Obama?  Another six month round of credit card balance transfers and fever-brained real estate bidding wars?  Based on what underlying new real production and income?

Truth in Lending: “Opportunity Capital”

Corporate capitalism’s babysitters, that charming, marketing-oriented group known as “politicians,” continue to equate giving free public money to banking corporations with doing something to redress (rather than exacerbate) the economic crisis that has emerged from a generation of pretending that the rich can’t can’t too rich.

Well, for your general use and enjoyment, here are some rare, behind-the-scenes admissions from the executives running the banks taking the handouts, as relayed in Saturday’s edition of The New York Times, in a story titled “Bailout Is a Windfall to Banks, if Not to Borrowers”:

♦“Make more loans?  We’re not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans…We see TARP as an insurance policy,” he said. “That when all this stuff is finally over, no matter how bad it gets, we’re going to be one of the remaining banks.” – John C. Hope III, the chairman of Whitney National Bank in New Orleans

♦Speaking at the FBR Capital Markets conference in New York in December, Walter M. Pressey, president of Boston Private Wealth Management, a healthy bank with a mostly affluent clientele, said there were no immediate plans to do much with the $154 million it received from the Treasury.  “With that capital in hand, not only do we feel comfortable that we can ride out the recession,” he said, “but we also feel that we’ll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves once this recession is sorted out.”

♦For City National Bank in Los Angeles, the Treasury money “really doesn’t change our perspective about doing things,” said Christopher J. Carey, the bank’s chief financial officer, addressing the BancAnalysts Association of Boston Conference in November. He said that his bank would like to use it for lending and acquisitions but that the decision would depend on the economy.  “Adding $400 million in capital gives us a chance to really have a totally fortressed balance sheet in case things get a lot worse than we think,” Mr. Carey said. “And if they don’t, we may end up just paying it back a little bit earlier.”

♦Among the others, PlainsCapital Bank of Dallas announced in November, not long after the bailout program began, that it planned to merge with a healthy investment bank, First Southwest. PlainsCapital received $88 million from the Treasury on Dec. 19, and the all-stock merger was completed two weeks later. PlainsCapital’s chairman, Alan B. White, insisted in an interview that the two events were not connected. He said the bank had not yet decided what to do with its bailout money, which he called “opportunity capital.” Increased lending would be a priority, said Mr. White, who did not rule out using it for other acquisitions, adding that when regulators invited PlainsCapital to apply for federal dollars, there were no conditions attached.  “They didn’t tell me I had to do anything particular with it,” he said.

♦At the Sandler O’Neill East Coast Financial Services Conference in Florida, bankers mingled with investment analysts at an ocean-front luxury hotel, where the agenda featured evening cocktails by the pool and a golf outing at a nearby country club. During his presentation, John R. Buran, the chief executive of Flushing Financial in New York, said the government money was a way to up the “ante for acquisitions” of other companies. “We can get $70 million in capital,” he said. “So, I would say the price of poker, so to speak, has gone up.”

All the while, the Elmer Fudds continue to pretend they’re really hunting the wabbits.

The Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., said in October that banks should “deploy, not hoard” the money to build confidence and increase lending. He added: “We expect all participating banks to continue to strengthen their efforts to help struggling homeowners who can afford their homes avoid foreclosure.”

The truth? “The [TARP] program does not dictate what banks should do with the money.”