Wall Street Redefined

Having trouble following the strange doings in markets these days? Perhaps these few definitions. among the hundreds found in my Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street book, will help in your understanding:

Bank Regulators:
Keystone financial cops who avoid getting into political traffic accidents by never actually chasing the robbers.

Capital Gains:
In the ongoing competition with labor, this is a status report

Christmas:
Formerly a religious holiday that has morphed into a seasonal obligation to overspend.

Credit Scores:
What Americans receive these days in return for giving up their right to privacy.

Debt Ceiling:
The always porous roof atop a national house of cards.

Detroit’s Big Three:
Poverty, property abandonment, insolvency.

Downsizing:
A process that attempts to shoehorn a size 12 company work load into a size 10 workforce.

Economic Forecasting:
Hindsight projected into the future.

Economic Recovery:
A period when things get worse more slowly between two periods when they get worse very quickly.

Financial News:
News that’s often not fit to print but gets printed anyway.

Fracking:
A chemical enema inserted into the earth in hopes of releasing large quantities of combustible flatulence.

Globalization:
A process that brings all peoples everywhere together in a common tragedy of epic proportions.

Inflation:
An excess of money in circulation so extreme that even poor people have more of it than usual.

Initial Public Offerings (a.k.a. IPOs):
Privately owned companies heavily rouged and tarted up by skilled investment banker makeup artists for a one-time appearance at a Wall Street coming out party.

Interday Highs:
Stimulant-generated euphoria experienced by Wall Street traders after brief washroom visits.

Market Research:
“Manny. This is Hank over at Goldman. How’s it going? What do hear about H.P.?”

Moochers:
Anyone at the federal trough who isn’t you.

Quantitative Easing:
The last refuge of a central bank that has tried everything else and failed.

The New Normal:
The old poor.

The Treasury:
A government agency staffed by Goldman Sachs employees on sabbatical leave.

Too Big To Fail:
Financial obesity that unlike physical obesity does not shorten life but guarantees its perpetual continuation.

Toxic Assets:
Assets that no sane individual wants but which government has a strange and endless desire to possess.

Wall Street’s Best And Brightest:
Dumb and dumber in thousand dollar suits.

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Popularity Of Congress Soars!

A few months ago the approval rating of the U.S. congress reached its lowest point in history — perhaps the lowest point of any legislature in world history — just 8 percent. But that was then. According to a just released survey, that number has changed dramatically.

The percentage of Americans who now think congress is doing a good or excellent job has soared to 10 percent. Eight percent to 10 percent. This is a massive 25 percent improvement!

Perhaps most exciting and positive for congress watchers when it comes to popularity is the congressional vacation schedule. Like most hard working Americans, congress has just begun its annual five week vacation (you also get a five week vacation each year, right?) And since it won’t be in session conducting business, or conducting no business as has been the case for a very long time, there will be less occasion for 90 percent of the American people to feel an even greater contempt for the institution than they currently feel. The approval rating of congress is thus likely to soar further in this five week period, maybe getting into the mid teens.

Keep it up congress. One in ten Americans think you are doing a good or excellent job and deserving of your $170,000-a-year salary and the attractive health plan you just voted for yourself under Obamacare. And if you decide not to get back into session after a five week layover, well, that would be OK, too.

(Now available from Amazon in print and ebook formats — Michael Silverstein’s The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.)

Let’s NOT Focus On Job Creation And Expanding The Economy

Pick up a newspaper. Listen to the radio. Watch TV. Catch the latest fixed wisdom from a pol of any stripe talking about improving American living standards. The rap these days is always the same. The emphasis is always the same. Proclaimed endlessly. We have to focus on job creation and expanding the economy.

Really? Why?

We’re already creating a lot of jobs. The economy is already growing. And the living standards of a growing number of Americans is still stagnant at best and increasingly on the decline.

The reasons are obvious. Most of the new jobs being created are lousy jobs, part-time jobs, jobs without benefits, jobs that don’t provide a good standard of living. And the growth in the economy for at least a decade has all gone to the top one or two percent of Americans, not gone toward improving the living standards of other Americans.

Is that what our economic ruling class wishes to perpetuate? What you wish to perpetuate?

So what’s the alternative? What would work to create better jobs, better living standards for most Americans, so that the majority gets the benefits of growth it deserves because it is the true generator of this growth?

There is, of course, no single answer to this question. But as I write often, the most direct and obvious way to at least start the economic healing is to increase the tax rates of the rich and apply ALL the additional revenue generated toward reducing the tax rates of the working middle class and poor. This would directly and immediately create more and better jobs, and generate more growth whose benefits would get into the hands of more Americans

This will never happen! you say, because the present politics in this country would prevent it from happening. No one can deny that. However…

There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come. The time for this one to arrive is not yet. The time to enter it into the political discussion lists in every way possible has arrived.

Common sense. Common decency. Necessity. They all come together in this simple idea. So it will come. Perhaps sooner than most people expect.

Hey. All you 2016 presidential candidate wannabes. Look this way. Either party’s wannabes welcome.

(Now available from Amazon in print and ebook formats — Michael Silverstein’s The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.)

Moochers Of The Beltway

Congress is taking another week off for the 4th of July. This follows similar breaks earlier in the year for Easter and Memorial Day. When congress returns from its current break it will work for a few weeks, then take off the entire month of August (D.C. is hot in August) and not come back until after Labor Day. It will then be in session through the rest of the year, except, of course, for long breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And every weekend starting at shortly after noon.

These days much of the work done by congress while actually showing up for work involves trimming the benefits received by moochers. You know. Like the dependency loving miscreants living it up on food stamps, a good many of whom have full-time jobs that don’t pay enough to buy food.

Happily, the moocher fighters in Congress don’t need to mooch to buy their own food. Congressmen get salaries of $170,000 a year, along with exceptionally generous benefits, great job security because of gerrymandering by both parties, no trouble getting loans for homes and school loans for their kids, a near guarantee of even better paying work as lobbyists when their public service ends, and increasingly, second family incomes paid spouses working as lobbyists or in think tanks.

Yes, there are moochers in America today. Not the ones dependent on eating regularly who have become dependent on food stamps. But the puffed up, overcompensated moochers of the Beltway.

(Now available in both print and ebook formats — Michael Silverstein’s The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall.)

Available At Last! The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street

Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary was a delightful collection of quirky definitions, naughty verse and satirical pieces skewering an overblown and profoundly corrupt Gilded Age.

Michael Silverstein’s new Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street applies the same approach to today’s overblown markets and their puffed up denizens. Its hundreds of painfully funny definitions, poems, and encounters featuring Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs washroom attendant, will make you laugh—and think.

Silverstein is a former senior editor with Bloomberg Financial News, and a long time regular on NPR’s Marketplace Morning Report. The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street is now available from Amazon in both print and ebook formats.

Check it out. You’ll like it.

Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin, Marc Rich — How The Democratic Party Sold Out To Wall Street

Robert Rubin was the smartest guy in a room full of guys who thought they were the smartest guy in the room. When Bill Clinton appointed him Treasury Security, Rubin explained to the president how the U.S. economy could get a quick shot of prosperity at the same time Wall Street got a huge burst of profits, in a way that also guaranteed that the Clintons could always use New York City as their political and personal ATM.

President Clinton bought in (or was bought out, if you prefer). Wall Street was unleashed, a process that climaxed with the trashing of Glass-Steagall in 1999, a move that in essence put taxpayers on the hook if Wall Street greed and excess went really, really awry. Wall Street reciprocated by giving big to the Democratic Party (a deal is a deal). Barack Obama bought into the same deal after the 2008 market crash and played his part in the arrangement by appointing Wall Street enabler Tim Geithner to be his Treasury Secretary.

There was still something missing, however — at least from Wall Street’s perspective. A legal thing.

Sure, Wall Street was free to “innovate” in ways that made huge fortunes for the folks at the top of the The Street heap. But if this “innovation” was so egregious and flagrantly dishonest that Main Street howled loud enough, there was still the danger that the biggest innovators might go to the slammer. And what’s the point of sucking a billion or two from an infinitely corruptible system if you have to a spend a year or two in a federal lock-up, even a minimum security one with a pool and tennis courts?

Enter the Marc Rich solution to this conundrum.
Rich, who just died at the age of 78, was a commodities trader. He fled to Switzerland in 1983 to get away from federal indictments charging him with 50 counts of wire fraud, racketeering, illegally trading with Iran, and evading more than $40 million in income taxes.

Rich’s wife gave generously to the Democratic party while hubby enjoyed his time in the Alps until 1999. The day before leaving office that year Bill Clinton pardoned Rich, allowing him to return to this land of commodities trading opportunity a free man.

What was really interesting in this pardon — at least to those who closely monitor the decline in this country’s public integrity — was the reason President Clinton gave for the pardon. It was stated that Rich could be pardoned because he shouldn’t have been charged with criminal violations at all, but with civil ones. You know, civil offenses. Like wire fraud, racketeering, illegal trading with a country under U.S. embargo, and tax evasion.

Fast forward to the present. In the wake of the 2008 financial disaster, Wall Street’s greed and arrogance operating in a milieu of trashed government regulation has brought extreme misery to huge numbers of people in this country and around the world. Nonetheless, not a single high level Wall Street miscreant has gone to jail for his part in massive fraudulent schemes. And the reason? Our Department of Justice has made it clear it does not consider such deeds criminal in nature. After the Rich pardon, they are merely deemed civil infractions to be excused with fines paid with money made in the frauds.

Summing up: Bobbie (Rubin) and Billy (Clinton) concocted Wall Street-friendly schemes that among other things neutralized the Democratic Party as a traditional buffer against Wall Street predation, a role that had traditionally only been played by Republicans. And Richie (Marc) Rich’s pardon provided a template, a mechanism, that perpetually excuses even the worst Wall Street slime from criminal punishments.

(Coming very soon from Michael Silverstein: The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.)

All Important Economic Questions Answered Here

Q: Why are there such huge protests in countries around the world?

A; Of course there are many local reasons for these protests. But whether it’s the Arab Spring, the protests around Europe, or our own Occupy Wall Street, one issue is always clearly on view. Young people who lead the protests see their economic futures getting bleaker with no end to the bleakness in sight.

Q: What is the main cause of this economic malaise?

A: The main cause is a new capitalism that has replaced one that spread the benefits of a growing economy to most folks. This new version keeps all the benefits at the top and dribbles down hardly anything.

Q: Why don’t governments do something about this situation?

A: Some governments that tried have gotten rolled over by the big bank, big lender steamroller. Other governments are just in the pockets of the big buck interests. Most governments, however, are simply controlled by people who have bought into the big bank, big lender line that this is the way things have to be done in advanced economies.

Q: Can anything save the U.S. and world economies from the second stage of the twenty-first century’s first double dip depression, brought about by big bank and big lender greed?

A: Don’t know about the world economy. A good start can be made in the U.S., however, through revisions of the tax code. Tax the rich more, and give ALL the extra revenue generated to the middle class in the form of lower taxes for them. This would immediately boost most people’s incomes, and increase spending that would work to reanimate the entire economy.

Q: Will this happen any time soon?

A: Don’t be silly. Of course it won’t happen any time soon. Get real.

Q: So what can be done to lessen the economic pain?

A. Purchase my new book, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street, which will be available very soon.

Barack Obama Is Destroying The Democratic Party Brand

The Tea Party’s influence is destroying the Republican brand. A Republican Party with a rich tradition of being moderate with conservative leanings, sensible and willing to negotiate to advance bi-partisan objectives, has been turned into a my-way-or-the-highway gaggle of ideological cranks.

Alas, things are little better on the other side of the political aisle. There, a president who is historic in terms of symbolizing a great step forward in this country’s race relations is proving equally historic in terms of destroying the very soul of the party that brought him to office. Barack Obama is quite clearly and quite tragically destroying the Democratic Party brand.

What is this brand: Concern for the poor, and ferocious defense of government programs that help this part of our national population; equally ferocious in protecting the interests of the huge and vital American middle class from predation by this country’s upper economic tier; safeguarding the regulatory controls over companies that befoul the environment, and over a Wall Street whose value to society is never best served by letting it pursue its own worst predilections unimpeded.

Barack Obama has failed to serve any of these traditional Democratic branded imperatives. He has sometimes stood above the fray when they were challenged, or more often, joined the fray in ways that worked against these imperatives. His excuse (when he’s bothered making ome rather than just railing against Democratic progressives) is that ‘the other guys’ won’t let him do otherwise. An excuse, if true, which simply admits that he isn’t up to the job he was elected to perform.

Barack Obama’s presidency isn’t just a bump on the road of the Democratic Party. It is doing something far more destructive when it comes to the party’s brand. It is saying to believers in this brand that resistance to Wall Street and one percent domination is futile. That the economic powers that run this country can never be challenged, no matter which party is formally in power in Washington. That an attractive-seeming progressive ‘reformer’ will henceforth always be just another beard for the real economic rulers.

The Democratic Party of the United States of America is the longest running, continuously operating political grouping in the world. Barack Obama didn’t initiate its slide into a tragic irrelevance in the people’s service. He seems, however, well on his way to finishing the job.

So long old Democratic Party friend. You were long a good pal. R.I.P.

(Coming soon from Michael Silverstein — The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street)

The Last One Out The (Stock Market) Door

Everyone knew the huge rise in world stock markets was a bubble. The only question was when it would pop. The game was to ride the bubble as high as possible before the popping happened. But if your timing was off, well…

The Last One Out The (Stock Market) Door

You want to grab the upside when an upside’s there, oh sure,
You know the frenzy must soon pass, then won’t be there no more,
The warning signs keep blinking, they’re too clear to ignore,
An inner voice says “run for it, make haste to market’s door.”

The last one out gets hammered
Heading for the market’s door.

You hesitate to leave because…that’s such a painful chore,
Perhaps this time its different, not a bubble like before,
Why not awhile linger, just to boost your winning score,
With daily records being set, why not, one more, encore.

The last one out gets hammered
Heading for the market’s door.

But now, alas, you’ve stayed too long, and sense what is in store,
The smartest ones have all slipped out, wait on a safer shore,
New numbers have you frightened, frightened right down to your core,
It’s never really different, first new ceiling, then new floor.

The last one out gets hammered,
The last one ends up poor,
The one who didn’t heed the signs
And exit market’s door.

(Coming very soon — Michael Silverstein’s new book, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street

The Ballad Of Hamid Karzai

It’s gotten so darn hard to find a foreign flunky to front U.S. policies in countries that for various incredibly stupid reasons we invaded and ended up getting stuck. That was true in Vietnam, in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan with that Hamid Karzai guy. Here’s a poem that sums it all up with this most recent disastrous selection.

The Ballad Of Hamid Karzai

Raised as a Pashtun, he’s that people’s star,
A local tribal hero hailed near and far,
He spent some years a’crusin’ down in Kandahar,
At three was selling carpets in its bustling bazaar.
Hamid, Hamid Karzai, king of the slick veneer.

In the Cold War’s last hurrah, the Russkie soldiers came,
Adding a new chapter to the old Afghan Great Game,
Hamid joined the CIA, the failing bear to tame,
And when the smoke had cleared away he’d won himself a name.
Hamid, Hamid Karzai, had sights on a choice career.

When the US effort fizzled there, we looked for the right man,
A local guy in Kabul to confront the Taliban,
Someone who spoke good English, with his own Afghani plan,
To combine a fam’ly business with the country that he ran.
Hamid, Hamid Kazai, the Gucci buccaneer.

The US now is leaving like it exited Iraq,
Even our war fighters are most happy ’bout this fact,
We wish we had someone in place who looked good while we pack,
But there are no good choices here, Hamid’s our one fallback.
Hamid, Hamid Karzai, we picked now we despair.

(Coming soon from Michael Silverstein — The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street)