George Osborne was to have been a new kind of chancellor for a new kind of Britain. Instead of being an economy hooked on financial services and trading, we were going to be an economy under the stern command of business investment and export markets. Instead of government profligacy, we were going to see government [...]

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So, the European Commission’s President Manuel Barroso says that it would be “difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to become an automatic member of the European Union. George Osborne and (worse) his senior Treasury adviser Sir Nicholas Macpherson have ruled out any likelihood of currency union. These things were predictable, perhaps, though Alex [...]

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What Is a Ponzi Scheme?

by Mitch Feierstein about 2 months 2 weeks ago

Anatomy of a Ponzi Scheme

A Ponzi Scheme applies to any investment scheme where the promoter offers crazy returns to attract investors. If you invest your money in such a scheme, you might even get it back – plus some crazy rate of interest – as long as there’s still a flood of money from new investors. But the scheme [...]

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Welcome to Planet Ponzi

by Mitch Feierstein about 2 months 2 weeks ago

You know that scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? The one where the good guy, Jimmy Stewart, stands up in the Senate protesting the graft and corruption he sees all around him. He’s not as smart as the other Senators. He was only elected by accident and knows that he’s not properly qualified to [...]

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11

When Democracy Dies

by Mitch Feierstein about 2 months 2 weeks ago

Planet Ponzi – the massive build-up of debt, the total loss of political transparency – had caused multiple casualties across the world. The failure of banks, the huge rise in government debt, the failure of business, the loss of jobs, the pressure on real incomes – all these things stem from the same dark causes.

But there’s one consequence greater than any of these things. In the last few weeks, democracy has taken a pasting. For all Berlusconi’s faults (and there are many), he was the democratically elected leader of his country. The new Italian government does not boast a single elected politician. The Italian people have had nothing to do with choosing the direction of their country. Given that their nation has faced no more serious issues since the Second World War, this is a somber thought indeed.

It’s the same thing in Greece. George Papandreou may not have been a perfect leader, but he was the country’s elected leader. When Europe presented Greece with an ultimatum, Papandreou’s first instinct was to take that offer to his country. The future of the Greek people would be defined over the next ten years or more by these matters: Papandreou was right to consult his nation. As soon as the ‘international community’ got wind of those plans, he was promptly rebuked, he left office – and a new government took power without an election.

In the United States: the same thing. The budgetary ‘super-committee’ was set up in the wake of the debt-ceiling vote to define a budget strategy for the US government. That is: party apparatchiks chose – without election or public consultation – the men and women who will plan the nation’s fiscal future. Again: a total absence of democracy, a total lack of transparency.

And what happens? What emerges from this process? Answer: failure. The politicians in America, as in every country, are chosen in order to debate and solve the leading issues of the day. They need to solve those issues through open debate and place themselves in front of the electorate sufficiently often that the electorate can express a view.

In America, our political process has shown itself, so far, incapable of this basic task. To speak bluntly but fairly: American democracy is, at the present time, failing the nation.

Even in the countries, like Germany, that are not a part of Planet Ponzi, democracy seems close to collapse. Why should the German people be asked to bail out their southern neighbours and not get a vote on it? Why should the ECB pile into buying Italian bonds – probably illegally – and yet the people of Europe have no say on these things? Why should the British government refuse a Euro referendum, simply on the grounds that the leaders might not like the answer?

The solutions to Planet Ponzi are simple. More democracy not less. Less debt, not more. At the moment, we have things – tragically – the wrong way round.

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Volcker Rule: Too Big to Enforce

by Mitch Feierstein about 3 months 1 day ago

As the initial shocks of the financial crisis of 2008-09 began to subside, policy makers – shattered by the scale and velocity of what they had just witnessed – started to think about earthquake prevention measures: how to stop the same thing happening all over again, One of the simplest, and best, such suggestions came [...]

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1

Wall Streets Latest Dirty Little Secret – The Fix Is In

by Mitch Feierstein about 3 months 2 weeks ago

At yet another select committee recently – they’ve been doing a good job – Vince Cable was grilled about the huge leap in the Royal Mail’s stock market value. As you’ll remember, the firm was floated at 330p a share and traded as high as 600p in November, a rise of 82% in a few [...]

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2

We must take a stand against lies, damned lies and statistical data

by Mitch Feierstein about 4 months 2 weeks ago

Last week, a brave police constable told a startled Parliamentary select committee that crime statistics were being artificially manipulated to keep recorded crime on its downward path. In one remarkable exchange, the committee’s chair, Bernard Jenkin, asked: “This [the police process] would finish up with trying to persuade a victim that they weren’t raped, for [...]

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We put out one fire but now Mark Carney wants to start another

by Mitch Feierstein about 5 months 3 weeks ago

Mervyn King’s decade at the Bank of England was a disaster. The Bank was too slack during the long and indisciplined boom, under prepared for the crash and playing catch-up thereafter. The legacy of Lord King’s (and Gordon Brown’s) career has been an economy still limping along far below peak output, real wages caught in [...]

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Ed Miliband has a point. When this country toppled into crisis in 2007-08, it was widely feared that the financial collapse would lead to mass unemployment on a scale that dwarfed the recession of the early 1980s. And it hasn’t happened, or not quite. Yes, unemployment is really bad. Yes, the statistics are manipulated. And [...]

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