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    The OB Media Rundown for 6/17/12

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    Learning You’re Not Elite

    If you ever want to see a middle-class person learn first hand and immediately that he or she is not actually an elite, attend an arraignment docket down at the county courthouse and watch defendants brought up on misdemeanors. The poor defendants already know what to expect. They’ve lived discrimination and they might qualify for the public defender. So they look bored and tired. They’re not afraid of because they have no expectations.

    But the middle-class defendants will be absolutely bewildered and visibly terrified. They have no idea what they’re in for. And the only things they’ve ever heard or known about our criminal justice system are that it’s horrible, and that it’s for Other People. Watch them up shaking as they struggle to keep up with that judge reciting from the state criminal code. That’s when a lot of people realize they aren’t elites. That’s when they learn they’re Other People too.

    Financial Firms Ready ‘Crisis Teams’ for Greek Election Aftermath

    The banks are on high alert. Hundreds of employees at big firms, some part of special teams, will be on standby this Sunday, awaiting the results of Greece’s pivotal election. They are preparing for the worst case. The fear is that the vote will heighten the chances of Greece exiting the euro and the global financial system will be shaken when the markets open on Monday.

    After being largely unprepared for the extreme stress of the 2008 crisis, large banks in the United States are determined to be ready this time. They have been taking measures to deal with instability in Europe for over a year. In recent months, they have stepped up their contingency planning, especially after it became clear that Greece was struggling to comply with the terms of a March bailout that was intended to keep the country in the euro.

    In New York and London, banks have set up dedicated crisis teams, and rehearsed elaborate responses. As clients get nervous, banks have been guiding clients on how to react to a range of situations, from just one country leaving the euro zone to the dissolution of the euro itself.

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/17/12” »

    The OB Media Rundown for 6/16/12

    Transit fare hikes getting you down? Blame the banks

    This week, the Refund Transit Coalition, a group of transit advocates, workers and supporters, including the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transportation Equity Network, released an interesting report. It alleges that a major cause of many recent fare hikes and service cuts is due to interest swaps: financial arrangements that transit systems across the U.S. made with banks on a percentage of their debts, which ended up working in favor of the banks when interest rates plummeted in 2008 and were kept artificially low because of the recession.

    We got wind of the report, “Riding the Gravy Train – How Wall Street is Bankrupting our Public Transit Agencies,” through WNYC, which ran a story on how the deal has caused the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (N.Y. MTA) to lose almost $114 million a year and how the agency will likely continue to lose money on the deals for the next 30 years.

    Since the transit systems need to pay for operations, they have to raise fares and cut service to make up for the substantial losses, which are further exacerbating budgets alongside lower tax revenues. Adding insult to injury, many of these Wall Street banks, which were bailed out with taxpayer money, the report pointed out, “use their profits to lobby against laws that aim to curb their abuses, to create and inflate the next economic bubble, to find ways to avoid paying their fair share in taxes and pay out billions of dollars in bonuses.”

    DREAM Act occupiers skeptical about Obama’s offer of ‘prosecutorial discretion’ – ‘We’ve been down this road before’

    Triangle immigration activists were skeptical Friday of the Obama administration’s announcement that it would stop deporting some young illegal immigrants who were brought into the United States as children.

    The co-founders of the N.C. Dream Team, a group that backs national legislation that would provide some illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, said President Barack Obama’s announcement falls short of guaranteeing that deportations will be halted. The activists questioned whether the announcement was a political ploy to get the Hispanic vote.

    Last year, the administration announced that prosecutors would use discretion in deportation cases, mainly focusing on threats to national security. But deportation numbers continued to rise. “We’re not going to believe the president until we see it happen,” Jose Rico, 22, of Raleigh, a co-founder of the N.C. Dream Team, said about Obama’s Friday announcement. “We’ve been down this road before.”

    Immigration groups have attempted to occupy Obama campaign offices across the country to force the administration’s hand on the immigration issue.

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/16/12” »

    The OB Media Rundown for 6/15/12

    Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises

    A critical document from President Barack Obama’s free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.
    . . .

    The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.

    Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.

    Campaign cash is the gift that keeps on giving

    Look at the Wisconsin recall campaign of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. At least 14 billionaires rushed to the support of the corporate right’s favorite union basher. He outraised his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by nearly 8-to-1. Most of his money came from out of state. More than $60 million was spent, $45 million of it for Walker alone.
    . . .

    These are the people who are helping to fund what the journalist Joe Hagan describes as a “tsunami of slime.” Even as they and their chosen candidates are afforded respectability in the value-free world of plutocracy, they can hide the fingerprints they leave on the bleeding corpse of democracy in part because each super PAC comes with that extra special something every politician craves: plausible deniability. When one of their ads says something nasty and deceitful about an opponent – when it slanders and lies – the pol can shrug and say: “Not my doing. It’s the super PAC that’s slinging the mud, not me.”

    Coming weeks may prove crucial to world’s faltering economies

    The U.S. economy is stumbling, the global economy is slowing and the next few weeks are likely to be crucial in determining the pace of business activity for everyone from Boston to San Francisco, Beijing to Sao Paulo.

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/15/12” »

    The OB Media Rundown for 6/14/12

    High school class president says she is barred from giving speech due to Occupy ties [CT]

    A girl who worked hard for four years to get to the head of the class and claim her spot as class president has been told she won’t be allowed to address her class.

    North Haven High School student Molly Gambardella tells News 8 she’s barred from giving the commencement speech.

    School officials say it was a deadline issue, but Molly says it’s a decision made by the school because of her involvement with Occupy. She became so involved with the group, she decided to learn in a different environment.

    Police shut down demonstration, Occupy Providence protesters banned from mall for one year

    Occupy Providence protesters took their message to the mall Saturday — but not for long.

    Occupy demonstrators rallied inside the Providence Place Mall. In a statement to Eyewitness News, the group says it was there calling for higher taxes on the rich.

    However, mall security and Providence police moved in and removed the activists from the building. According to Occupy Providence, several protesters were handcuffed and detained. They were later released after accepting a one year ban from the mall.

    House Republicans Try to Create the World’s Worst Criminogenic Environment

    In the context of crimes of the street (other than Wall Street), there is normally no lobby trying to allow the typically lower class criminals to commit their crimes with impunity. In crimes of the business suites, however, it is the norm that there are well-funded, powerful, and seemingly legitimate lobbyists for the elite criminals who seek to allow them to commit their crimes with impunity. Similarly, it is rare for street criminals to consult a lawyer before they commit their crimes. Elite white-collar criminals often consult with expert legal counsel before, during, and after they commit their crimes in order to try to minimize the risk of being sanctioned.

    One of the most obvious ways to produce a criminogenic environment is to create systems incapacity to detect and sanction crime. House Republicans are doing that in the context of elite white-collar crime. That context also happens to be the leading campaign donors for both parties.

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/14/12” »

    The OB Media Rundown for 6/13/12

    States Stay in Austerity Mode Even as Revenue Rises 

    Even though tax revenues are finally rising faster than expenses, governors across the nation are recommending more austerity in the budgets they’re presenting to state legislatures this year, the latest survey from the National Governors Association shows.

    For the fiscal year beginning July 1, governors are recommending a 2.2 percent increase to $683 billion in general revenue fund spending. That’s down from the 3.3 percent increase in state spending in 2012. Revenue, meanwhile, is projected to rise four percent during the coming fiscal year.

    Health Care Costs Causing More Americans To Go Without Needed Care: Survey

    Americans skipped doctor and dentist visits, didn’t receive diagnostic tests, didn’t take their medicines, cut pills in half or took other steps to save money that could make them less healthy, the survey found. Twenty-six percent of Americans reported they or a family member had difficulty paying medical bills, the same percentage as last August.

    GOP attacks student aid

    There’s a conservative talking point that opposes federal aid for college because, they claim, the aid just gets absorbed into higher tuitions.  Careful research does find such linkages when it comes to for-profit schools, but much less so when it comes to publics and non-profits, which is where about 90% of undergrads get their higher ed (see figure).*

    A column in today’s WSJ reports evidence of this sort of transfer, but the results apply exclusively to private, for-profit schools:

    The study’s authors warned their findings don’t apply to public colleges and private nonprofit schools, which they say are different because they aren’t motivated by profits and because their prices are largely determined by state funding and donations.

    Research shows that tuitions at the public universities, where 75% of students enroll, are very much a function of revenue flows.  Thus, when they hit recession – and remember, states must balance their budgets – a couple of unfortunate things tend to happen at the same time.  First, tuitions tend to rise, and second, with the increase in unemployment, more young adults decide that given the weak job market, this would be a good time to get some more education.  (Another interesting strain of research finds that increased state Medicaid costs has also led to higher tuition at public universities.)

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/13/12” »

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