POSTED: 1 OCTOBER 2008 - 8:30am HST

Bailout Blues

image above: Wallstreet in front of NYSE on Monday, September 29th, 2008

by Richard Heinberg on 26 September 2008 in

Ever since Hank Paulson made his pitch for a $700 billion slush fund to prop up teetering Wall Street financial institutions, the wails from thousands of American advocacy groups have reached an ear-splitting fortissimo.

Most of these groups have spent decades working patiently to influence one or another line item in the Federal budget amounting to a few tens or hundreds of millions of dollars—money for education, environmental protection, public transportation, or health care. Many of these organizations are working to avert what they perceive to be a national calamity of one sort or another.

And now King Henry waltzes in, announces that the bankers have gotten themselves into a bit of a bind as a result of their own greed and stupidity, and insists that each American taxpayer immediately take out a loan for over $2,500 so that he can distribute the funds secretly, with no oversight, to a bunch of financial wizards who typically make several thousand a minute in salaries and bonuses--wizards who introduced us to the wonders of derivatives and adjustable-rate mortgages.

Sounds like a great plan to me. Why would anyone balk? Just think of the futility of spending a few billion of that treasure on things like building bridges or railroads, projects that might actually hire real workers, when we can instead buy up mountains of toxic debt from a bunch of bankrupt hucksters. Now that’s a real investment in our future!

Sorry for the sarcasm. It’s hard to resist. I’ll try to ratchet it down as I explain just what $700 billion means in terms of our nation’s energy infrastructure. America has about 130 million private homes, so that’s about $5,400 per home—not quite enough to put a one-kilowatt photovoltaic system on every roof. I use that as a standard, because that’s what my wife and I have on our own house, and it basically zeros out our electricity bill for the year.

Of course, that wouldn’t be the most practical energy use of the money: not every house is appropriate for solar. So throw in a few hundred wind turbines instead, along with a few billion dollars for research into energy storage technologies. One way or another, the country would be well on its way toward ending its dependence on fossil fuels.

Realistically, another few trillion would be needed to finish the job by rebuilding the grid (which desperately needs it) as well as the transport infrastructure. But most or all of that larger installment would come from industry, given the appropriate incentives and regulatory structures.

Everyone who understands energy, who grasps that oil is in its final days and that other fossil fuels are dribbling away too, who sees the vital necessity of ending carbon emissions given the climate cataclysm we face, or who worries about the ongoing geopolitical turmoil generated by competition for access to increasingly expensive oil and gas, agrees that the energy transition away from fossil fuels is the highest survival priority for our species at this moment in our history. But evidently there are those who see a greater need elsewhere.
Oh well, it’s only money.



POSTED: 29 SEPTEMBER 2008 - 6:30pm EST

The Rich Are Staging a Coup Right Now

image above: Cartoon by Nick Anderson at

Michael Moore on 29 Sept 2008 in

Let me cut to the chase. The biggest robbery in the history of this country is taking place as you read this. Though no guns are being used, 300 million hostages are being taken. Make no mistake about it: After stealing a half trillion dollars to line the pockets of their war-profiteering backers for the past five years, after lining the pockets of their fellow oilmen to the tune of over a hundred billion dollars in just the last two years, Bush and his cronies -- who must soon vacate the White House -- are looting the U.S. Treasury of every dollar they can grab.

They are swiping as much of the silverware as they can on their way out the door.
No matter what they say, no matter how many scare words they use, they are up to their old tricks of creating fear and confusion in order to make and keep themselves and the upper one percent filthy rich. Just read the first four paragraphs of the lead story in last Monday's New York Times and you can see what the real deal is:

"Even as policy makers worked on details of a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it.

"Financial firms were lobbying to have all manner of troubled investments covered, not just those related to mortgages.

"At the same time, investment firms were jockeying to oversee all the assets that Treasury plans to take off the books of financial institutions, a role that could earn them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

"Nobody wants to be left out of Treasury's proposal to buy up bad assets of financial institutions."

Unbelievable. Wall Street and its backers created this mess and now they are going to clean up like bandits. Even Rudy Giuliani is lobbying for his firm to be hired (and paid) to "consult" in the bailout.

The problem is, nobody truly knows what this "collapse" is all about. Even Treasury Secretary Paulson admitted he doesn't know the exact amount that is needed (he just picked the $700 billion number out of his head!). The head of the congressional budget office said he can't figure it out nor can he explain it to anyone.

And yet, they are screeching about how the end is near! Panic! Recession! The Great Depression! Y2K! Bird flu! Killer bees! We must pass the bailout bill today!! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Falling for whom? NOTHING in this "bailout" package will lower the price of the gas you have to put in your car to get to work. NOTHING in this bill will protect you from losing your home. NOTHING in this bill will give you health insurance.
Health insurance? Mike, why are you bringing this up? What's this got to do with the Wall Street collapse?

It has everything to do with it. This so-called "collapse" was triggered by the massive defaulting and foreclosures going on with people's home mortgages. Do you know why so many Americans are losing their homes? To hear the Republicans describe it, it's because too many working class idiots were given mortgages that they really couldn't afford. Here's the truth: The number one cause of people declaring bankruptcy is because of medical bills. Let me state this simply: If we had had universal health coverage, this mortgage "crisis" may never have happened.

This bailout's mission is to protect the obscene amount of wealth that has been accumulated in the last eight years. It's to protect the top shareholders who own and control corporate America. It's to make sure their yachts and mansions and "way of life" go uninterrupted while the rest of America suffers and struggles to pay the bills. Let the rich suffer for once. Let them pay for the bailout. We are spending 400 million dollars a day on the war in Iraq. Let them end the war immediately and save us all another half-trillion dollars!

I have to stop writing this and you have to stop reading it. They are staging a financial coup this morning in our country. They are hoping Congress will act fast before they stop to think, before we have a chance to stop them ourselves. So stop reading this and do something -- NOW! Here's what you can do immediately:

1. Call or e-mail Senator Obama. Tell him he does not need to be sitting there trying to help prop up Bush and Cheney and the mess they've made. Tell him we know he has the smarts to slow this thing down and figure out what's the best route to take. Tell him the rich have to pay for whatever help is offered. Use the leverage we have now to insist on a moratorium on home foreclosures, to insist on a move to universal health coverage, and tell him that we the people need to be in charge of the economic decisions that affect our lives, not the barons of Wall Street.

2. Take to the streets. Participate in one of the hundreds of quickly-called demonstrations that are taking place all over the country (especially those near Wall Street and DC).

3. Call your Representative in Congress and your Senators. (click here to find their phone numbers). Tell them what you told Senator Obama.

When you screw up in life, there is hell to pay. Each and every one of you reading this knows that basic lesson and has paid the consequences of your actions at some point. In this great democracy, we cannot let there be one set of rules for the vast majority of hard-working citizens, and another set of rules for the elite, who, when they screw up, are handed one more gift on a silver platter. No more! Not again!

Michael Moore

P.S. Having read further the details of this bailout bill, you need to know you are being lied to. They talk about how they will prevent golden parachutes. It says NOTHING about what these executives and fat cats will make in SALARY. According to Rep. Brad Sherman of California, these top managers will continue to receive million-dollar-a-month paychecks under this new bill. There is no direct ownership given to the American people for the money being handed over. Foreign banks and investors will be allowed to receive billion-dollar handouts. A large chunk of this $700 billion is going to be given directly to Chinese and Middle Eastern banks. There is NO guarantee of ever seeing that money again.

P.P.S. From talking to people I know in DC, they say the reason so many Dems are behind this is because Wall Street this weekend put a gun to their heads and said either turn over the $700 billion or the first thing we'll start blowing up are the pension funds and 401(k)s of your middle class constituents. The Dems are scared they may make good on their threat. But this is not the time to back down or act like the typical Democrat we have witnessed for the last eight years. The Dems handed a stolen election over to Bush. The Dems gave Bush the votes he needed to invade a sovereign country. Once they took over Congress in 2007, they refused to pull the plug on the war. And now they have been cowered into being accomplices in the crime of the century. You have to call them now and say "NO!" If we let them do this, just imagine how hard it will be to get anything good done when President Obama is in the White House. THESE DEMOCRATS ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS THE BACKBONE WE GIVE THEM. CALL CONGRESS NOW.

see also:
Island Breath: On Borrowed Time 9/28/08
Island Breath: The US Debt Rattle 9/18/08
Island Breath: Desintegration of System 9/17/08
Island Breath: Last Ditch Effort 9/15/08
Island Breath: Peak Global Economy 7/29/08
Island Breath: Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Mess 7/14/08
Island Breath: The Perfect $torm Approaches 6/28/08
Island Breath: Report from the Bank of Banks 6/28/08

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