Friday, October 30, 2009

Forbes: Millionaires & insurers oppose health surtax

So, for example, a guy making an adjusted gross income of $800,000 would see his tax bill increase from $200 K to $240 K. This "millionaires tax" on anyone making over $500 K is expected to pay for over half of the cost of the House Democrats' health bill.

Sounds good to me!

The House's new bill is solidifying opposition among millionaires, manufacturers and insurers.

By Brian Wingfield
October 29, 2009 |

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

States report 388,000 jobs from stimulus so far

Well, there is clearly room for doubt about the jobs numbers, so... I'm just going to trust Glenn Beck. I think that's the smart thing to do.

Early reports: Job gains signal stimulus impact
By Brad Heath and Matt Kelley
October 28, 2009 | USA TODAY


If Big Guvmint is evil, then local gov't is stupid

Sure, the IQ of your average national Congressman might not be any higher than your average city councilman, but at least at the federal level they get lots of help from trained and educated bureaucrats who actually know what they're doing -- people at the Congressional Budget Office and General Accounting Office, for example. City councils are too often the "short bus" of our representative democracy. Bloomberg says that more than 85% of tax-free municipal bonds will be sold this year without any competitive bids -- 'cos in small towns a man's word is still his bond, and we small town folk do business on a handshake, and trust is our currency, blah, blah, blah.

By William Selway
October 27, 2009 | Bloomberg

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Banks squeeze responsible credit card holders ahead of legislation

You gotta love free-market capitalism:

"Basically, if there's money to be made via some new fee or strong-arm practice, the banks have done it,"Los Angeles Times writer David Lazarus summarized. "Tony Soprano and his crew pretty much operated the same way."

Gee, I'm sure glad I've been carrying all that debt at the 0% introductory APR and then making the minimum payments. Sucks to be you responsible folks though!

UPDATE: Scratch that. One of my credit card banks got me. My rate will go from about 7 percent to about 21%. I'm opting out, yo! See yuh!

U.S. soldier turned diplomat resigns over Afghan war

Everybody, listen up!

Senior diplomat in Afghanistan said he believes the war is simply fueling the insurgency

October 27, 2009 | FOXNews

A former Marine who fought in Iraq, joined the State Department after leaving the military and was a diplomat in a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan has become the first U.S. official to resign in protest of the Afghan war, the Washington Post reported early Tuesday.

Matthew Hoh, who describes himself as "not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," said he believes the war is simply fueling the insurgency.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," Hoh wrote in his resignation letter, dated Sept. 10 but published early Tuesday. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

The move sent ripples all the way to the White House, the paper said, where officials immediately appealed for him to stay out of fear he could become a leading critic.

U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry brought him to Kabul and offered him a job on his senior embassy staff, but Hoh declined. He then flew home and met with Richard Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

[They tried to buy his silence with a promotion and a cushy office job, but he turned them down. Good for him! - J]

Holbrooke told the Post he disagreed that the war "wasn't worth the fight," but did agree with much of Hoh's analysis.

"We took his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer," Holbrooke said in an interview with the newspaper. "We all thought that given how serious his letter was, how much commitment there was, and his prior track record, we should pay close attention to him."

The revelation comes as President Obama pledged on Monday not to "rush the solemn decision" to send more troops to battle in Afghanistan as he weighs military options on what to do next in the troubled war.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

KY militias' resurgence

Hey, Highlights fans, can you find the KY nutjob in this picture?

I'm glad to see my home state is as nutty or nuttier than many others. We won't be outdone!

Seriously though, how ignorant on the one hand, or powerless on the other, must these Kentuckians be if they think the only way they can oppose Obama's "socialist agenda" is by playing army in the woods and stockpiling guns and supplies?

Whom do they think they're "confronting" by dressing up and drilling in the woods? They matter absolutely zero. They're opposing nothing. All they're doing is encouraging some among their number to take violent revenge against symbols of their imaginary oppression. Pathetic.

By Chris Kenning
October 24, 2009 | Louisville Courier-Journal


Terrell, a veteran of the earlier era, said today's militia groups, including his own, are drawing members who are "scared" about what they see as an overreaching government trying to take over health care and private industry. Terrell's Web site explains that a "government gone wild" and "Obama's socialist agenda," are leading his group to "confront the threats to Freedom and the American way of life."

Mark Danner on America's 'Athenian problem'

Interesting interview by Bill Moyers with a veteran U.S. war correspondent who has written a new book about America's democratic empire. I'm copying some excerpts below....

Interview with Mark Danner, author of Stripping Bare the Body
By Bill Moyers
October 20, 2009

"I call this in the book the Athenian problem. Which is how do you have ... a democratic empire, how do you have an imperial foreign policy built on a democracy polity. It's like some sort of strange mythical beast that's part lion, part dragon. You know at the bottom is a democracy, and then it's an imperial power around the world. And the problem is that the things demanded by an empire, which is staying power, ruthlessness, the ability and the willingness to use its power around the world, it's something that democracies tend to be quite skeptical about. And this is a political factor that looms obviously very large in his calculations."


"Because the Bush administration was really the nightmare that the world had always feared, which is an America unbounded by anything but its own power. Unbounded by international law, judicial processes, anything. And Obama has changed that impression of the United States, which is extremely important."


"We've been told that our interests are to prevent the regathering of Al Qaeda and Afghanistan as a jihadist base of operations, from which more attacks like 9/11 can be launched. But the fact is that these people have a very light footprint. The idea that you can simply keep them out of a place by occupying it with, in effect, a handful of troops, I think is quite mistaken. There are other places they can go. Somalia, Sudan, various other countries. So, I think, you know, what happens very frequently, our goals change during a war. The one goal which, George Kennan I quote saying in the book. The reason that we go in is often forgotten, and suddenly the goals become something like maintaining our dignity. Keeping up our international authority. Preventing a loss and the damage such a loss will do to our international profile. In other words, they all become I think what rhetoricians call heuristic. They're about the mission itself, not achieving anything else."


"But I think the more reporting I do, the more I see violence used in an instrumental way. And also, I should say, our own tendency, when we use violence, because the United States does use it extensively-- to ignore what we think of as the hygienic use of force.

"You know, the Iraq war, in the first couple of weeks-- the so-called combat stage, as the George W. Bush administration called it-- the best estimate made by the Associated Press of civilian casualties, civilian deaths, which is certainly an understatement, It's a hospital count so it's only people who were brought to hospital morgues, was 3400 people. Now this is in two weeks.

"This is more than the number in the United States who died in 9/11. And of course, Iraq is a tenth or an eleventh the size of the United States. So the equivalent, on the US side, would be 35,000 people died, civilians, in that war. They were never on camera. You never saw those bodies. You saw very few bodies. It was as if the American army simply marched up the road to Baghdad. And in fact-- you know, the military before the war, estimated collateral damage at 10,000, 15,000, something like that.

"And you know, when you make a decision like that and say 10,000 to 15,000, or 7000, or whatever the number was, will probably be killed as a result of this intervention, people who have no-- you know, are not military and so on-- that it strikes me as an extremely serious thing. It's not like trying to kill civilians in a terrorist attack, needless to say. It's not, because that's your intention. But it's not entirely different. I mean, you are setting out, and knowingly, on an operation that's going to kill large numbers of civilians. And we tend not to look at it, and then we tend to forget it."


"I think that the first point to be made is there is no "solution" in Afghanistan. Solution I put in quotes. We live in an op-ed culture, which is to say, you always need to have a solution. The last third of that op-ed piece needs to say, "Do this, this, this and this." There is no this, this, this, and this, that will make Afghanistan right.

"I think the first thing we need to do is be clear about our interests there, which I think are very, very limited. I think we need to be clear about the fact that our presence on the ground is going far toward undermining the very raison d'etre for our presence, which is to say, we do not want to encourage future terrorist attacks on this country. We don't want to allow large scale jihadist organizing, if we can prevent it. But our presence in Afghanistan is a major rallying cry for those groups precisely. I would gradually disengage from Afghanistan.

"But I think the war is going badly there. And frankly, it's going badly here. And I'm glad the Obama administration, I think the President himself, has, in the wake of the Afghan elections-- because that really was the turning point, the realization that the partner on the ground there was corrupt and illegitimate. And in the wake of those elections-- all of the early perceptions about the war that Obama had set out on are being reconsidered."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Romney: Iran is world's biggest threat

I'm going to pick on Mitt Romney, but he deserves it for being others' moussed-up, ignorant mouthpiece. "Why is Mitt Romney talking about Iran?" you might ask. He wants to be President, that's why. Come 2011 he needs to show (to his kook GOP base, at least) that he's been thinking about Iran for a long time already. That's why his people wrote this op-ed and put his name on it. But this is semi-excusable because it's so normal. No U.S. politician in his right mind actually spends any time thinking about Iran unless he's forced to. That's what advisers are for.

What's worst of all is that Mitt's advisers are showing zero creativity on the Iran problem. They -- er, he, is adding nothing new. He's merely going on the record to say, "I, Mitt Romney, agree with the hard-line neocon view on Iran."

Now as to what he actually proposes... In the paragraph quoted below Mitt demonstrates the main problem with the hard-liners' position: they want to impose "withering sanctions" on Iran as a prelude to war; and at the same time support all these alleged liberal revolutionaries-in-waiting. How much are these revolutionaries going to love the USA when they can't eat?* Sanctions never hurt regimes, only the people whom those regimes oppress. Sanctions are a double-whammy on the oppressed. And they provide convenient cover to oppressive regimes for the country's economic failures.

(*I would love to see some serious intelligence analysis on how many Iranian dissidents are willing to take up arms to take down the current regime. For them to have a shot in hell, they'd better number in the hundreds of thousands at least, and be concentrated in Tehran. If the alleged Iranian Resistance doesn't meet those criteria, then we're just jerking ourselves around. ... But then, we're pretty good at that, aren't we? I bet somebody on the Right will once again have the gall to predict, "They'll greet us with flowers when we come!")

What are sanctions likely to accomplish? Normal Iranians will suffer and eventually blame America, the agent of their suffering. (Romney argues hopefully that most Iranians want more engagement with the West... so Romney urges cutting off their trade and diplomatic ties with the West. Huh?!) Iran's people will rally to support the defiant hard-liners and ayatollahs. And Iran's nuclear program will continue. I mean, look at North Korea, the most sanctioned country on earth: they still have their nuclear program and still find the resources to launch a missile or two every year towards Alaska.

And so, when sanctions fail, as they inevitably will, and the U.S. decides, with the heavy sigh of the world's policeman, that attacking Iran is the only option, America will find itself with few allies inside Iran. If the U.S. has to put boots on Iranian soil -- which it probably would have to do -- it will find itself surrounded by hostile Iranians. We already know how that story goes, folks. (Afghanistan and Iraq). Unfortunately, nobody seems to know how it ends. Not even Mitt.

Iran: Biggest Threat Since Soviets
By Mitt Romney
October 22, 2009 Human Events


The President of the United States can employ his admiration and good will to actually accomplish something meaningful and real in Iran -- comprehensive, withering sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and international support for the forces of freedom within Iran. The people of Iran represent a major source of strength. By and large, they have not been radicalized by their government and clerics; in fact, the regime's effort to crush the uprising against it has only alienated the people of Iran. They fear economic stagnation and they hate political repression. Most are not seeking a military confrontation with the West. Indeed, most want greater engagement with the West.

Ames: Posse Comitatus violated after murder rampage

If you're a gun/militia nut, chances are you know what the Posse Comitatus Act is, and what violating it means: every right-winger's worst nightmare (or the best day of his life, depending on how nutty and eager he is to fight).

It's the rest of this article that interests me more, since I lived in Alabama, and since I sympathize with exploited workers, not with rich managers who bankrupt companies and whole counties yet manage to retain their $ millions. But probably gun/militia nuts won't give a s*** about that part.

By Mark Ames
October 24, 2009 AlterNet

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Imaginary gold?

"Every ounce of gold has at least 4 owners." Jeez Louise. And there are still nuts who want a gold standard?

How much imaginary gold has been sold?
By Adrian Douglas
October 16, 2009

On October 10 I published an article that postulated that the gold market is a Ponzi scheme because it sells gold that doesn't exist by implementation of the principles of fractional reserve banking. (See Since writing that article further information has come to light that supports this claim and allows an estimate of how much gold has been sold that doesn't exist if the owners of the gold ask for it.

In other words, there are several owners for each ounce of physical gold.

By complete coincidence Paul Mylchreest of The Thunder Road Report has just written an in-depth study into the daily trading volumes of gold on the London over-the-counter market, which can be found here:

The London OTC market is where most physical gold is traded. This market is a wholesale market where trades are conducted only between the bullion trading houses on behalf of their clients. About 95 percent of the trading is by way of gold that is held in unallocated bullion accounts.

The unique characteristic of gold is that about 50 percent (80,000 tonnes) of the above-ground stocks are held as a store of wealth (investment). The other 50 percent exists as jewelry. When gold is bought as a store of wealth it can perform that function for you wherever it is in the world. Given this unique characteristic many large investors in bullion prefer to leave their gold with the bullion dealer from whom they bought it so that it can be stored in their vault and easily resold. This is identical to the situation with stocks, where most stock certificates are held by brokerage houses, not by individuals.

That people are buying and selling gold without ever taking delivery means that there is the opportunity for bullion houses to sell gold that doesn't exist.

Now the bullion houses probably don't view this as illegal or dishonest because they will operate a fractional reserve type of system, just as the banks do with fiat currency, and will make sure they have enough gold on hand for what would be the maximum estimated volume of gold that could be called for delivery. After all, trading is done with unallocated gold, so how much more unallocated can it get if it doesn't exist at all?

This is what caused bank runs in the days of the gold standard. People would deposit gold in a bank and receive bank notes (dollar bills) in exchange. At any time the depositor could return and hand over his bank notes and receive from the bank the same quantity of gold he deposited. The banks realized that under normal circumstances a maximum of about 10 percent of the gold deposited could be requested. So the banks saw an opportunity. They could issue up to 10 times as many bank notes in loans as there was gold in the bank and they could earn interest on the bank notes. The system worked until there was difficulty meeting withdrawals. Then word spread quickly that the bank was insolvent, and as holders of the banknotes rushed to the bank to redeem them for gold, the bank would admit it had insufficient gold and would declare bankruptcy.

The origin of the word "bankruptcy" is from the Latin words "bancus" and "ruptus," which means literally that the bank is broken. Banks have gone bust frequently enough to have earned themselves the ownership of the word to describe the phenomenon. Isn't that ironic when banks are meant to be a safe store for money?

This basic scam is at the center of modern gold market manipulation. Instead of real gold, paper substitutes for gold are sold through derivatives, futures, pooled accounts, exchange-traded funds, gold certificates, etc. I estimate that each actual physical ounce of gold has multiple ownership claims to it.

For the scam to be sustained there must always be plentiful physical gold for those who want it. The market is, in effect, a giant inverted pyramid with a huge paper gold market being supported by a small amount of physical gold at the tip of the inverted pyramid. The scam can continue until there are indications of a shortage of physical gold. If all the claimants of each ounce of real gold demand their gold, then there is the potential for a squeeze such as has never been seen before.

To lend support to the idea that all the gold in the world has been sold several times over I cite the case of Morgan Stanley, which was sued in 2005 for selling non-existent precious metals. Morgan Stanley even had the audacity to charge storage fees. The firm settled the class-action lawsuit out of court but no criminal charges were ever filed. If Morgan Stanley was doing this, you can bet that it is the tip of the iceberg.

Paul Mylchreest has done fabulously detailed research into data on the daily trading of gold on the London OTC market. He concludes that 2,134 tonnes of gold are traded each and every day. That is a shocking number because this is 346 times larger than all the gold that is mined in the world each day.

But this on its own is not sufficient evidence to indicate that the market is fraudulent. For example, if I have a 1-ounce gold coin and I have a hundred friends I could sell the coin to a friend and then he could immediately sell it back to me or sell it to one of my other friends, who could sell it back to me. If I were to transact with all my friends in the same day in this way, I could have turned over a volume of 100 ounces in trading transactions but no fraud would have occurred because the last friend I traded with owns the 1-ounce coin, even though it went through a hundred sets of hands before it got to him. There are no multiple ownership claims to the coin because the trades were sequential, not simultaneous.

But if I were to sell 1 ounce of gold to all my friends and promise I would keep the gold for them, the trading for the day would be 100 ounces but now fraud has been committed because I have a liability of 100 ounces while I have possession of only 1 ounce. If they never ask for the gold and I can pay them cash when they want to sell their gold, then there is a good chance my friends would be none the wiser ... until the day when at least two friends insist on receiving the 1-ounce coins they each supposedly own.

The daily gold trading in London is simply humongous. We talk of the gold market being a tiny market. It is anything but. It has a daily turnover of $70 billion. To put this in perspective, the world consumes 86 million barrels of oil each day. The total cost of the global daily oil consumption is a mere $6 billion!

But as discussed above, the daily volume traded does not in and of itself prove that a fraudulent fractional reserve operation is being conducted. Mylchreest did some more work using statistics from the GFMS metals consultancy to determine the maximum quantity of gold stock the OTC market could be holding with which it can back the huge daily trade volume. The gold that is traded has to be in the form of London Good Delivery (LGD) bars, which are 400-ounce bars. Mylchreest estimates that there can be only about 15,000 tonnes of such bars in the world. Let us assume that the London OTC market holds them all. We will show that by comparison with the trading of other unallocated gold products that 15,000 tonnes is nowhere near enough gold stock for the gold not to have more than one ownership claim to each ounce.

The purpose of buying investment gold is for it to store wealth. This necessarily implies that it is held for a long time. If gold is bought and traded quickly it would destroy wealth, not store it, because there would be a large loss due to transactional fees. The figures we have so far suggest that the entire stock of gold of the London gold market could be turned over every seven days (15,000 / 2,134 = 7). That would hardly be characteristic of a market that is supposed to be selling a "buy and hold" product. For the purposes of illustration, in a town of 15,000 houses would you expect 2,134 houses to be sold each day? Or that each house on average would have 52 owners during the year?

Let's compare how much of the inventory of the precious metal exchange-traded funds are traded each day to get a good idea about how frequently investors trade something they have bought as a store of wealth. The most liquid and highly traded ETF is GLD. It has 325 million shares outstanding and the fund trades on average 11.9 million shares each day. This means it trades one share each day for each 30 shares outstanding. Central Fund of Canada trades one share for each 140 shares outstanding, while the Gold Trust Unit trades one share for each 300 shares outstanding.

The GLD ETF is a way of buying, holding, or selling unallocated gold. One would expect the investors' behavior in this ETF would be similar to those trading the unallocated accounts on the OTC. If the investor trading mentality on the London OTC is similar, then 2,134 tonnes should be 1/30th of the gold stock held by the OTC. This equates to 64,000 tonnes of gold. But Mylchreest estimates that the OTC can hold no more than 15,000 tonnes because that is the entire global stock of LGD bars. If we use the CEF example, the stock would have to be 298,000 tonnes, or by the GTU example it would have to be 640,000 tonnes.

Probably the GLD comparison is the most relevant, as that exchange-traded fund claims to hold 1,100 tonnes gold, which is comparable to the maximum 15,000 tonnes that could be held by the OTC participants. However, the OTC is restricted to wholesale traders and has a minimum trade limit of 1,000 ounces. In GLD the minimum trade is a tenth of an ounce and trading is open to everyone. Considering these limitations it is likely that OTC participants would turn over a lot less than 1/30th of the inventory in a day. But even taking the GLD estimate, the OTC participants should be holding 64,000 tonnes when according to what can be deduced from GFMS statistics they can be holding only 15,000 tonnes.

This means that each ounce has at least four owners. I think this is probably very conservative because the GLD vehicle is set up to be easily traded and in units as small as a tenth of an ounce. I would guess that it is more likely to be as high as 10 or even 20 owners to every ounce, particularly when the banking world has used a 5-10 percent reserve ratio with fiat money for a long time and bankers are creatures of habit.

This would imply that the liability for unallocated gold that has been sold is probably closer to 150,000 tonnes (taking the more conservative 10 percent figure), but the liability is backed by a totally inadequate maximum of only 15,000 tonnes of physical gold. So it's likely that between 45,000 and 135,000 tonnes of unallocated gold has been sold that does not exist.

This is between 50 and 170 percent of the entire existing investment gold stock that has taken 6,000 years to mine and accumulate.

We are hearing of more and more cases of gold investors wanting to take physical delivery or have allocated gold.

In my recent article I said:

"A couple of months ago Greenlight Capital, the large hedge fund, switched $500 million of investment in GLD to physical gold bullion. ... Apparently Germany has requested that its sovereign gold held by the New York Federal Reserve Bank be returned to Germany. Hong Kong has requested the same of the Bank of England, which stores its sovereign gold. Robert Fisk, a respected journalist for the UK's Independent newspaper, reported this week that the Arab oil-producing states, Japan, Russia, and China have been holding secret talks to replace the dollar as the international reserve currency and as an accounting unit for trade. He reports that the basket of currencies they propose instead of the dollar would include gold. If gold is going to regain its monetary role, then you can understand why those in the know want actual physical bullion. There are some very real and significant signs that a run on the Bank of the Gold Cartel for physical gold is commencing."

Talking of runs on the bank, Rob Kirby of Kirby Analytics in Toronto, a GATA consultant, did some brilliant sleuthing work. His sources have told him that there was panic in the London gold market around September 30 as participants in the market wanted to take delivery of their purchased gold and refused generous cash settlements that were offered instead. Central banks had to come to the rescue to provide the gold via leasing. Apparently even the central banks could not provide bars that met LGD standards, which indicates that an acute shortage of physical gold is developing and that perhaps already many OTC clients have drained a large proportion of the 15,000 tonnes of gold stock from the London OTC market.

This supports what I have been discussing above.

Paul Walker, CEO of GFMS, recently said that gold was going up because of some "large lumpy transactions in a market with a degree of illiquidity."

If the OTC was selling only gold that the participants own, there could never be a lack of liquidity. The panic that occurred at the end of September confirms that there is a chronic lack of liquidity. This necessarily implies that there is multiple ownership of the same ounce of gold and it is, therefore, fraudulent. Leasing of gold from central banks provides only temporary liquidity, because the central banks want their gold returned at some later date, and it looks as if the bullion bankers may have dipped into that well one too many times already.

The gold market is in a precarious position. Just as in the days of the gold standard it requires only one customer not having his deposit returned to bring down the bank, because a domino effect results in all depositors asking for their deposits to be returned. If my estimates are correct, that somewhere between 64,000 and 150,000 tonnes of gold have been sold against a reserve of only 15,000 tonnes.

But how much of even this 15,000 tonnes remains?

The panic at the end of September suggests that liquidity is very tight, in which case only a small percentage of investors asking for their gold to be delivered or placed in an allocated account will blow up the gold market and expose the scam -- a scam that has been repeated time and time again throughout history. Why should this time be any different?

If you think you own gold, you should take a few precautions.

If you have unallocated gold in some sort of pool account that does not have a satisfactory audit or you own shares in an ETF that does not have a reliable audit, take action. Take delivery of gold or move your investment to reliable and audited allocated storage.

If you do nothing about it and when the music stops you are left with just a piece of paper that says you own gold but no one is able to give it to you, then perhaps you will be able to take comfort in your having dismissed the German government, the Hong Kong government, Greenlight Capital, and many others as a bunch of nuts who don't know as much as you do about counterparty risk in the gold market. But the "nuts" who are realizing that there are multiple claims to each ounce of gold will at least have their gold if they ask for it first.

Adrian Douglas is a member of GATA's Board of Directors and publisher of the Market Force Analysis letter (, which identifies market turning points. Subscribers receive bi-weekly bulletins on the markets to which they subscribe.

How Wall St. continues to screw us

How Wall Street Is Making Its Billions

By Phillup Greenspun

October 17, 2009 Harvard blogs

Wall Street banks have had profitable quarters. JPMorgan Chase reported $3.6 billion in profit (more than $1 billion per month). Goldman Sachs was only slightly behind, at $3.2 billion. These profits supposedly came from "trading." I asked a friend who has worked in the money business how this was possible. "For someone to make money trading, there has to be someone on the other side of every trade who is losing money. Where does each bank find someone who can lose $1 billion every month?"

He explained that "carry trade" would be a more accurate description of what they're doing. Because of the Collapse of 2008 financial reforms, the big investment banks are able to borrow money from the U.S. government at 0 percent interest. Then they can turn around and buy short-term bonds that pay 2 or 3 percent annual interest. Now they're making 2 percent on whatever they borrowed. They can use leverage to increase this number, by pledging some of the bonds that they've already bought as collateral on additional bonds.

I asked if they were taking any risk in order to earn this return. "If interest rates went up to 20 percent, even though the bonds are short-term, the price of the bond could fall enough to make the trade a money-loser." (Though since the banks are too big to fail, they would simply be bailed out with additional taxpayer funds.)

What kind of bonds are they buying? Are they investing the money in American business? "No, they are mostly buying Treasuries." So the money is just being shuffled from one Federal bank account to another, with each Wall Street bank skimming off $1 billion per month for itself? "Pretty much."

[A more old-fashioned way of making supranormal returns is insider trading, which was perfectly legal until the Crash of 1929 (history). The New York Times ran a story yesterday on Raj Rajaratnam, a hedge fund manager who invested heavily in inside information. Rolling Stone published "Wall Street's Naked Swindle" on October 14. The story is much more sensational and entertaining than anything from the Times. It covers a guy who spent $1.7 million on out-of-the-money put options on Bear Stearns on March 11, 2008. The options would become worthless on March 20, just 9 days later, unless Bear Stearns basically went bust. Bear Stearns collapsed the next day and the guy made a $270 million profit. He has never been identified by the SEC.]

Paulson-Goldman's secret Moscow rendezvous

Then Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson gave his old colleagues "bear hugs" at the private meeting in Moscow, then spent an hour telling them what he thought about the economy and what should be done. That's "market-moving" information to say the least.

Paulson and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein should both be locked up in the same jail cell, where they can bear hug one another to their heart's content, spend endless hours discussing the economy and inflating one another's assets.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Secret Service strained by more threats to POTUS

Let's face it, conservatives are more likely to cling to their guns, believe that violence solves problems, and harbor anti-black sentiment. The end result: more death threats against Obama than any other U.S. president. This is clearly another instance when the "You guys were just the same when Dubya was in office!" argument against Democrats and liberals does not hold water.

Something is very wrong with a minority of Americans who call themselves Republicans. And if and when some conservative nut does succeed in shooting Obama, or committing some terror act on home soil, his brothers-in-arms will take zero personal responsibility for encouraging this climate of paranoia, hatred, and violent revenge. Just like they shirked all responsibility after conservative militia/gun nuts McVeigh and Nichols killed 168 Americans and wounded more than 680.

I remember, because back then I was one of those wingnut deniers, I'm ashamed to admit.

Secret Service strained as leaders face more threats
By Bryan Bender
October 18, 2009 Boston Globe


Poll: U.S. majority favors public option

I knew the tide had turned when Bill O'Reilly came out in favor of a public option.

But this is it. This is how we get it done: through the states. Even 56% of Republicans favors a public option if it's provided by the states. Apparently they opposed the public option soley because of their pathological, irrational fear of all things federal, but whatever, let's do it.

Kucinich has a state public-option amendment in the House, and Sanders has one in the Senate.

Public option gains support
By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
October 20, 2009 Washington Post


57 percent of all Americans now favor a public insurance option, while 40 percent oppose it. Support has risen since mid-August, when a bare majority, 52 percent, said they favored it. (In a June Post-ABC poll, support was 62 percent.)

If a public plan were run by the states and available only to those who lack affordable private options, support for it jumps to 76 percent. Under those circumstances, even a majority of Republicans, 56 percent, would be in favor of it, about double their level of support without such a limitation.

Study: Coal electricity hides $62 B in costs per year

Report finds massive hidden energy costs, mostly from coal
By David Roberts
October 20, 2009

A new report from the National Research Council on the "hidden costs of energy" is, frankly, stunning. In a sane world, it would be headline news.

Producing and using energy imposes all sorts of costs on public health, crop yields, ecosystems, recreation, educational performance ... the list goes on. Many of these costs don't end up reflected in the market price of energy; consumers don't see them or factor them into purchasing decisions. They are hidden, paid indirectly through, for example, health-care spending or environmental-remediation costs. Such costs are external to energy markets—externalities, as economists call them—and they represent an enormous subsidy to the dirtiest sources of energy.

I'm always left somewhat dissatisfied by discussions about externalities. People seem to imagine them as external in some sort of metaphysical way, as though the costs inhabit an immaterial and weightless ether. ("Social" costs, they're sometimes called.) But costs are costs. Someone pays them, with real money. They dampen economic productivity, like driving with one foot pressing the brake.

In 2005, Congress set about finding out just what these external costs of energy production and use amount to. It requested that the National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Science) attempt to place a number on them. On Monday, the NRC released its report: "Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use."

First, note that the report did not attempt to quantify the damage to ecosystems and agriculture wrought by climate change. It did not attempt to quantify the national security costs of securing energy supplies. It did not attempt to quantify the land-use costs of biofuels. It didn't attempt to quantify the costs of mercury pollution, which as Bill Chameides documents, are substantial. It didn't attempt to quantify the impact on taxpayers that subsidies to the coal industry impose.

So a huge chunk of costs were written out, meaning the results are extremely small-c conservative. Nonetheless, the NRC found that hidden costs amounted to $120 billion in 2005.

Of that $120 billion, a whopping $62 billion—over half—came from one source: coal-fired electricity plants. And that's only a partial accounting, as Ken Ward Jr. reports:

Maureen L. Cropper, a panel member and professor of economics at the University of Maryland, noted that the study also did not examine "upstream" costs of coal-fired power—such as damage from mountaintop removal mining— or "harm to ecosystems" from other impacts, such as disposal of toxic power plant ash.

If MTR mining, ash disposal, mercury emissions, market-distorting subsidies, and climate damage were taken into account, how much farther do you think coal's costs would rise, in both absolute and relative terms?

Remember this report the next time you hear that "coal is cheap."

Murtha 'Insult to Democracy' video c. 2007

It took some digging because neither the Murtha-Sensenbrenner video nor the 62 irate comments on YouTube say what this vote was actually about, but I finally found out: In August 2007 the GOP tried but failed to add to an agricultural appropriations bill an amendment barring illegal immigrants from receiving food stamps:

I'll quote you a pithy summary from a Daily Show forum [link now dead; it takes you to TDS's stupid FB page now - J] about what caused this silly vote in the first place, the facts herein totally agree with the link above:

Basically what happened was the there was a very close vote on a republican amendment to deny benefits to illegal immigrants 214-214...and a couple of republicans changed their vote at the last make it 215-213 ..when the democrats saw that they were going to lose, they rallied a few more votes to make it 212-216. But apparently it was after the bell had rung, so the republicans whined that it was the first vote that should have counted.
So they said...Okay..let's have another vote..but the republicans stomped out and refused to have another vote.
The next day.....when they had a temporary majority, Republicans attempted to protest the previous night's vote with the daily routine of verifying the previous day's congressional record, but Murtha, as presiding officer, overruled a GOP request for a recorded vote on the approval procedure. Murtha apparently ignored that Republicans at the time had a majority of members then in the House chamber, which enables them to force a record vote. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) called on Murtha to explain his ruling, and Murtha responded by saying, "It is up to the chair. Let me tell you this, the vote will show that the approval would be approved by the House, as it has been."
So there was the first vote, which the Democrats plainly had the votes for but allegedly didn't get them in on time..then there was the 2nd vote, which was to protest the 1st vote..and Murtha was heavy handidly using his power, to actually fight a previous abuse of power. The video was chopped up to confuse the issue....
Anyway it was controversial enough to make yet ANOTHER investigation...arghh

So, far from being "Nazi Germany," (I think poor old Nazi Germany is very tired of being compared to every government under the sun, just an aside) or "Treason!" (does anybody know what that word means anymore?) this was just one act in a days-long match of parliamentary gamesmanship, which was so esoteric that it should not concern us, only bore us to death. Congress's rules of order when revealed are -- surprise! -- overly legalistic and petty. Nevertheless, if you read the entire saga, you'll see the Dems made a few attempts to meet the GOP halfway, but the Republicans preferred to make a big scene for the PR effect. GOP Minority Leader John Beohner even insisted on hiring an outside investigator at a cost of $1 million to investigate a vote that the GOP would have lost anyway if anybody cared.

So if nobody should care, why am I bothering to respond? Because it's 2 years after the fact and today I'm getting this forwarded to me, just like I know I will receive it again, so I would like to clear the air once and for all. (But I bet you somebody will forward it to me again. There is never "once and for all" with these things.)

This will 'frost' you......even if you're a Democrat!!!
So much for our two party system.
Murtha should be drummed out of Congress!!!!!

No wonder US citizens are appalled at the behavior of our (experienced) representatives!
YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS! Straight from C-Span. This is how the House will pass Obamacare!
Just watch this. This is our Democratic-Controlled House at work. It's their way all the way. (the video is very short and very maddening).
If anyone wonders about our current Congress and especially the House of Representatives this youtube will open their eyes. Watch this, then cry. We are losing our nation and everything it stands for.
How long can they get away with this?
The House Representative "Murtha" should be removed from office immediately. This kind of action borders on "Treason!

Birthers want Obama under oath

This quote from the wacky USJF about "the biggest political cover up in American history" pretty much says it all:

"If we defeat the dismissal motion, then we're immediately filing pleadings ("discovery") seeking Mr. Obama's birth certificate, his college records, and so much more. AND, we'll be seeking to depose Mr. Obama ASAP!"

This is not about Obama's birth certificate, and even if he shows it to you "birth bozos" you will not stop there, as this e-mail clearly indicates. You'll move on to "his college records, and so much more." Your agenda is to get him disgraced/embarrassed or else so distracted by this nonsense that he can't govern. It's an exact repeat of the 1990s, when your side spent $40 million of taxpayers' money to investigate an ancient land deal, but ended up investigating an office tryst. Despicable!

You know what though, keep it up, because you're further ruining the GOP in the eyes of normal Americans. You're doing my party a favor. Keep pushing, keep digging -- "the truth is out there!" as Fox Mulder of the X-files liked to say.

P.S. - I'm posting this on my blog, anonymously.

P.P.S. - If you donate even one dollar to this outfit then you're a sucker. Especially an organization headed by a guy named "Kreep." How appropriate!

On Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 12:52 AM, <> wrote:

We know less about this guy than any President in the history of the country. I'm one of those birth bozos who're trying to get to the bottom of his legality. The USJF can do it if anyone can and I'm, frankly, pissed that the man is using my tax money and the U.S. Department of justice to hide this information. The DOJ should be the responsible department to investigate Obama's eligibility......

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More 90's deja vu: 'Oath Keepers' gun movement

These Oath Keepers and their brothers-in-arms in the militias are paranoid and ready for war, which worries the government, which worries these paranoiacs even more, which alarms the government even more, which... Oh, you get the point.

You know, these Oath Keepers are great patriots and all, and I'm appreciative that the pigs are taking an oath not to shoot civilians, but... The open secret here is that these nutty gun groups pop up like mushrooms only during Democratic presidential administrations. To quote the article:

"The group's Web site,, features videos and testimonials in which supporters compare President Barack Obama's America to Adolf Hitler's Germany. They also liken Obama to England's King George III during the American Revolution.

"One member, in a videotaped speech at an event in Washington, D.C., calls Obama 'the domestic enemy the Constitution is talking about.'"

Well, obviously.

But then some gun-loving dipstick like Palin will get elected next and all these people will fade back into the woodwork (or the woods, as the case may be) until another Democrat is elected, no matter what civil liberties may be trampled on in the meantime. It's becoming like some kind of natural phenomenon, a cycle of waxing and waning nuttiness as predictable as the changing of the seasons.

Group asks police and military to lay down arms in response to orders deemed unlawful

By Alan Maimon
October 18, 2009 | Las Vegas Review-Journal

Monday, October 19, 2009

LA justice hands anti-US propaganda on a plate to Islamists

Way to go, Louisiana!

Big surprise, freaking Al Jazeera is doing a feature story on that racist Louisiana JOP Keith Bardwell who refused to allow miscegnation (look it up if you don't know the word; it's an oldie but a baddie).

Remember that Syed Qutb, the Egyptian "father of radical Islamism" who inspired Ayman al-Zawahri and Osama bin Ladin, and who lived in the USA in the 1950s, reserved some of his greatest criticism for the way America oppressed its black citizens. Who knows how many Muslims today falsely believe that the America of the 1950s hasn't changed for the better?

Surely anti-U.S. terrorist groups will be eating up this legitimate news story like candy, translating it into Arabic and a dozen other languages, and saying, "See, even with Barack Hussein Obama as President, the United States is still an evil, racist country!" The USG spends millions of dollars a year on PR aimed at the Muslim world, and yet one backwards Southerner with a little bit of power can undo so much progress.

Go take a long walk off a short levee, you racist hick!

Patty Culhane reports
October 18, 2009 | Al Jazeera

WH adviser: Obama 'not demanding' public option

Maybe I misspoke earlier. Obama is leading. He is leading us into the arms of the Republicans and the insurance and Big Pharma lobbyists. He is consciously deciding not to push single-payer or a public option, the only true ways to bring down costs.

What a disgusting sellout coward.

By Carrie Budoff Brown
October 18, 2009 | Politico

How ratings agencies sold us out

Here's how this good but long article ends up:

The ratings agencies [Moody's, Fitch Ratings, and Standard & Poor's] and were under no legal obligation since technically their job is only to give an opinion, protected as free speech, in the form of ratings.

"As an analyst, I wouldn't have known there was a compliance function. There was an attitude of carelessness, of careless ignorance of the law. I think it is a result of the mentality that what we do is just an opinion, and so the law doesn't apply to us," [Eric] Kolchinsky [managing director of Moody's structured finance division in 2007] said.

Experts such as Columbia University's [John] Coffee think that Congress must impose some legal liability on credit rating agencies. Otherwise, they'll remain "just one more conflicted gatekeeper," and the process of pooling loans -- essential to the flow of credit -- will remain paralyzed and economic recovery restrained.

"If (credit) remains paralyzed, small banks cannot finance the housing demand. They have to take them (investment banks) these mortgages and move them to a global audience," said Coffee. "That can't happen unless the world trusts the gatekeeper."

By Kevin G. Hall
October 19, 2009 | McClatchy Newspapers

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And the GOP's 2012 contenders are...

I know it's almost obscene to talk about the 2012 election already, but... I couldn't resist sharing this Rasmussen poll of Republicans, because it's great news for Obama: none of the top 5 GOP candidates holds any public office, therefore they will get almost no attention from non-GOP voters; and Mike Huckabee is the frontrunner with 29% support, including "huge support" from Evangelical Christians, who hold veto power over the GOP nomination. (The 6th-ranked candidate is Rush Limbaugh, if you count the 11% of Republicans who consider him the leader of their party.)

Note that Rep. Ron Paul, whose bill to audit the Fed is quickly become this year's most popular piece of bi-partisan legislation, is not even in the running. But don't expect that to last. He has retained his huge netroots support and his Internet fundraising infrastructure. And unlike the rest of the pack, who spend their time writing books about themselves and then doing the speech circuit, Ron Paul is actually doing stuff. But he'll never win, regardless -- the Evangelicals and neocons will make sure of that.

I almost feel sorry for the GOP, because they're in such a rut: The contenders can't get their party's nomination unless they win over the Jesus freaks and the rabid anti-immigration mob, but in doing so, they shock and alienate the rest of the electorate. Meanwhile, there is a niche candidate who "owns" each important issue (religion, anti-immigration, small government, etc.) who can out-flank anybody, like Romney, who tries to fight on all fronts at once.

All this is adding up to a repeat of 2008, when everybody and their grandma ran for the GOP presidential nomination and nobody cared. The difference in 2012 is that there looks to be no "establishment" candidate whom everyone can grousingly get behind after all the internecine blood has been spilled. The Republicans will divide and conquer themselves again; and meanwhile Obama, even if he is a mediocre sellout as President, will coast to re-election.

October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Goldman Sa -- er, the SEC names kid in his 20s to oversee Goldman Sachs

SEC's new enforcement COO Adam Storch: "Gee, um, mind if I audit you, sir? Can I? Can I? Pleeease?"

Jesus, these guys have big brass ones! They don't even try to hide it when they're putting in the fix. The SEC, which is run by Goldman Sachs, hired some snot-nosed, starry-eyed kid from Goldman Sachs to regulate Goldman Sachs. I'm sure his, um, 5 (?) years of work experience and that summer internship have amply prepared him for taking responsibility for enforcing securities regulations for the world's largest economy. To borrow a phrase from Garfield: Aaaaaarrrrgh!!!

Why didn't they just hire Goldman CEO Llody Blankfein's secretary and make this anal intrusion on U.S. taxpayers a total public "Thanks for letting us cornhole you, America" greeting card?

This is the most ridiculous freaking thing I have read in ages. And that's including The Baby Who Could Fly or whatever the top story was today on

I'm so mad I accidentally spat on my computer screen. And it's not even my computer.

SEC Names Goldman's Storch as Enforcement Unit Operations Chief
By Joshua Gallu
October 16, 2009 | Bloomberg

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission named Adam Storch, a 29-year-old from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s business intelligence unit, as the enforcement division's first chief operating officer.

Storch, who joined the SEC Oct. 13, was named to the newly created post of managing executive in the enforcement unit, charged with making the division more efficient, the SEC said today in a statement. At New York-based Goldman Sachs, he had worked since 2004 in a unit at that reviewed contracts and transactions for signs of fraud.

"Adam's skill in technology systems, workflow process, and project management will greatly benefit the division," SEC enforcement chief Robert Khuzami said in the statement. "He will help to make us more efficient and nimble and permit us to put more of our investigators on the front lines."

[Here's your first project, Adam: The Throw Ex-Boss In Jail Project. Can you "manage" that? - J]

Khuzami announced the position in August as part of the unit's biggest overhaul in three decades. He is taking steps to add investigators, speed inquiries and create specialized units after the agency was faulted for missing Bernard Madoff's $65 billion fraud.

Storch holds degrees in accounting and finance from the State University of New York at Buffalo and studied at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business. He has certifications in accounting, fraud examination and auditing.

Before joining Goldman Sachs, Storch was a senior analyst at accounting firm Deloitte & Touche and an intern at Neuberger Berman LLC, a New York-based asset management firm.

[See, he was a "senior" analyst at DTT when he was only in his 20s! (Jimbo/Keanu Reeves voice): Dude, check it out, this guy's like waaaay qualified!!! - J]

Khuzami has created specialty units of investigators and is giving people more incentive to cooperate with investigations. The five groups will investigate cases in asset management, structured products, municipal securities and public pensions, foreign corrupt practices and market abuse, Khuzami said in an Aug. 5 a speech in New York.

Limbaugh's socialist NFL sympathies show

I don't really care about all that Rush-racism controversy. Yawn.

However, I think it tells you a lot about Rush's conservative "principles" that he longs to be an owner in a league that is profitable thanks solely to corporate socialism in the form of local subsidies and tax breaks, and which for decades has practiced redistribution and shared wealth -- from richer to poorer teams -- in order to survive as a national league.

Check it out!:

The players ought to ask Mr. Limbaugh what his turnaround plan is to make the Rams profitable on their own merits without handouts from taxpayers or the league!

On Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 6:20 PM, TM wrote:

Rush Limbaugh is no angel, but neither are a lot of other sports teams owners.

End health insurers' anti-trust exemption

I agree with CNN's Cafferty and MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan that health insurers should not enjoy anti-trust exemption – if we truly believe that more competition would lower health costs. (I'm not sure that more private competition could do that, because it'd mean decreasing the size of risk pools.) I would add only one question: How can we say health insurance companies currently are not engaging in interstate commerce, if the same companies sell coverage to customers in several states?

Sure, OK, they comply with each state's particular mandates, and there is no physical product being shipped across state lines (unless you count insured people moving and seeing doctors in other states), but these health insurers are national companies with a single bottom line, right? What am I missing here?.... (Call me too lazy to do my own research on a Friday).

Do away with health insurance industry's antitrust exemption

By Jack Cafferty

October 15, 2009 |

Democrats are pushing back hard against the health insurance companies. As part of the health care reform bill — they want to strip the industry of its antitrust exemption. The industry got a special exemption from the anti-trust laws way back in 1945 on the grounds that it didn't participate in interstate commerce.

This means that unlike other industries, health insurance companies can discuss pricing, territories and other things that would otherwise be considered collusion. Translation: They make more money and you pay higher premiums. Nice deal — for them.

Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for more competition — and points to statistics that show 94 percent of the nation's insurance markets are "highly concentrated," and that in almost 40 states, two firms control more than half the market. Schumer says the top 10 companies went from $2 billion to $12 billion in profits in the past decade.

Where has this little factoid been during the health care debate… and what is Congress is waiting for? If this could increase competition and lower prices — why haven't they done something already? Excuse me. I lost my head there for a moment.

The insurance companies insist they are one of "the most regulated industries in America at both the federal and state level." They say this is nothing more than a political ploy. Whatever it is, it's long overdue.

Congress' wrath was triggered by that potentially flawed industry report earlier this week suggesting premiums would rise significantly under the Senate's health reform bill. They're also running TV ads that say seniors would suffer under the Senate plan.

The deal is we all suffer under the health insurance companies' plan. Time to contact your senator or representative… or both.

Krugman: Insurance industry's overreach helps reform?

A Hatchet Job So Bad It's Good

By Paul Krugman

October 15, 2009 | New York Times


As I said, the individual mandate probably should be stronger than it is in the Finance Committee's bill. But there's a reason the mandate was weakened: fear that too many people would balk at the cost of insurance, even with the subsidies provided to lower-income individuals and families. So why not address that cost?

Aside from making the subsidies larger, which they should be, there are at least two changes to the legislation that would help limit costs. First, health exchanges — special, regulated markets in which individuals and small businesses can buy insurance — can be made stronger, in effect giving small buyers a better bargaining position. Second, the public option — missing from the Finance Committee's bill — can be brought back in, giving private insurers some real competition.

The insurance industry won't like these changes, but that matters less than it did a week ago.

There's also another point, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stressed. Part of the opposition to a strong individual mandate comes from the sense that Americans will be forced to buy policies from a greedy insurance industry. Giving people, literally, another option — the right to buy into a public plan instead — would defuse that opposition.

[Indeed, BaucusCare, if passed by Congress as is, would be a corporate socialist giveaway to the insurance industry by mandating that every American buy private health insurance or else pay a tax penalty. -J]

Even with stronger exchanges and a public option, health reform would probably increase, not reduce, insurance industry profits. But the insurers wanted it all. The good news is that by overreaching, they may have ensured that they won't get it.

Stiglitz, et al: 'Deflation a threat right now'

Unfortunately, so many people have been programmed to fear inflation as the worst possible thing in the world, that they see the threat of distant inflation even in the midst of present deflation.

Take note: the U.S. consumer price index has fallen for six straight months compared to the same months last year. This is the longest period of U.S. price drops since 1954-55. Retailers like Kroger and Wal-Mart have told analysts openly: their businesses are suffering from deflation.

And core inflation (a measure of inflation that excludes volatile markets like oil and food) in the U.S. could soon be zero percent.

Yes, the Fed is printing more money, but the M2 money supply has shrunk 1 percent since mid-June 2009.

As wages shrink, debts become bigger in real terms, meaning people consume even less, making for a vicious cycle of idle capacity, layoffs, wage cuts, and price deflation.

Stiglitz: Deflation Threat Pushes Fed to Stay at Zero

By Michael McKee

October 2, 2009 | Bloomberg

The U.S. faces the possibility of deflation for the first time since the Eisenhower administration, a threat that may prompt the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates near zero through next year.

Executives at Kroger Co., the largest U.S. supermarket chain, blamed deflation for a 7 percent drop in earnings in the second quarter, while falling prices for food, gasoline, and electronics left August sales unchanged at Costco Wholesale Corp. A sustained price drop might set off a chain reaction in which lower profits force employers to pare wages and payrolls. That would erode consumer demand, exacerbating wage cuts and firings.

Such a spiral led to Japan's "lost decade" of slow economic growth in the 1990s. A more vicious version in the U.S. helped create the Great Depression six decades earlier. Bond investors are forecasting retreating consumer prices, as shown by the yield they demand to hold a one-year bond versus a similar inflation-protected bond.

"Deflation is definitely a threat right now," Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 66, a professor at Columbia University in New York, said in a Sept. 22 interview. "The combination of the deflation threat and the sluggish recovery should keep the Fed on hold for quite a while."

Consumer prices are experiencing deflation, with the consumer price index sliding for six straight months from year- earlier levels, the longest stretch of declines since a 12-month drop from September 1954 to August 1955, according to the Labor Department.

So far, the core consumer-price index, which excludes food and energy, is facing disinflation, a slowing in the pace of increase. The core index rose 1.4 percent in August from a year earlier, down from 2.5 percent in September 2008.

Fed Trio

Regional Federal Reserve Bank Presidents Janet Yellen, of San Francisco, James Bullard, of St. Louis, Richard Fisher, of Dallas, and Charles Evans, of Chicago, have expressed concern in past weeks about the possibility of declining prices.

"Disinflationary winds are blowing with gale-force effect," Evans, 51, said in a Sept. 9 speech in New York.

While the economy contracted 2.7 percent during the 1953 recession, it shrank 3.8 percent in the current recession, the most since the 1930s. Economists at New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the second- and fifth- biggest U.S. banks by assets, say there's so much deflationary excess labor and plant capacity in the economy that the Fed won't raise interest rates until at least 2011.

Gross Pessimism

"The potential for a deflationary downdraft continues for several years" if economic growth doesn't accelerate, Bill Gross, who runs the world's biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, said in a Sept. 29 interview with Bloomberg Radio.

At their most recent meeting on Sept. 23, Fed policy makers agreed to leave the benchmark interest rate in a range of zero to 0.25 percent, where it's been since December 2008.

Only 69.6 percent of the country's factories, utilities and mines were in use during August, close to the record low of 68.3 percent reached in June.

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said the economic rebound won't prevent a further slowing of the pace of price increases. "We are still, by any measure, in a disinflationary environment," Greenspan, 83, said in a Sept. 30 Bloomberg Television interview in Washington.

At the same time, recent reports on manufacturing, housing, and consumer spending suggest that any investor concerns about the danger of deflation are overblown, said Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Capital Inc. in New York.

Growth Outlook

The median projection of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News is for first quarter growth of just 2.4 percent, compared with a decline of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Maki sees a 5 percent expansion in the first quarter of 2010.

That would translate into higher prices.

"Inflation is driven more by the level of demand and pace of growth than by the size of the output gap," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. "As the economy returns to solid growth in 2010, we are quite confident that, in sharp contrast to the consensus Fed view, core inflation will be creeping higher."

Fed officials are already planning for that, and publicly discussing an exit strategy once the economy does pick up. At that point, the Fed may have to move with "greater force" than some anticipate to keep inflation from accelerating too rapidly, Fed Governor Kevin Warsh, 39, said in a Sept. 25 speech in Chicago.

Fed Purchases

That day is far off for bond investors. Inflation fears, raised by the more than $1 trillion the Fed has pumped into the economy by lowering rates and buying Treasuries and mortgage- backed securities, are fading.

"There's been a significant flattening on the long end of the curve," reflecting concern about deflation, said Pacific Investment's Gross, 65, who is buying longer-maturity Treasuries in response. The yield on the 10-year note, which was 3.95 percent on June 10, was 3.18 percent at the close of New York trading yesterday. The difference in yield between nominal and inflation-protected Treasury securities maturing in one year is negative 0.4 percent, suggesting investors expect deflation during the next 12 months. Over five years, that inflation premium is now 1.21 percent, down from 1.86 percent on June 10.

The Fed needs to "keep inflation expectations from slipping to undesirably low levels in order to prevent unwanted disinflation," Vice Chairman Donald Kohn, 66, said Sept. 10 in Washington during a speech at the Brookings Institution.

Oil Role

Falling consumer prices are partly a reflection of a 52 percent decline in oil prices to about $70 a barrel yesterday from $145.45 a barrel on July 3, 2008.

The slowing in core prices is more of a concern, said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan. The core rate fell following three prior recessions in which unemployment rose above 7 percent. That "suggests that core inflation could well be below zero within two years," Feroli said in an interview.

Core CPI fell 5.3 percent following the recession of 1973- 1975, 10.7 percent following the recession of 1981-1982 and 3 percent following the recession of 1990-1991.

Unemployment rose to 9.8 percent in September, a Labor Department report showed today, and it will likely climb to 10 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the Bloomberg survey of economists. The jobless rate was estimated to average 8.8 percent in 2011.

With unemployment elevated, companies may not need to raise pay to attract workers, even when the economy picks up.

'Enormous Slack'

"My personal belief is that the more significant threat to price stability over the next several years stems from the disinflationary forces unleashed by the enormous slack in the economy," Yellen, 63, said Sept. 14 in San Francisco.

Wages for U.S. workers fell for eight months in a row, dropping 5.6 percent from October 2008 to June 2009, according to Commerce Department figures. In contrast, wages continued to grow in the 1954-1955 deflation period.

Stagnating wages and fading job prospects are sapping demand. Consumer spending may increase in the fourth quarter by just 1 percent and in 2010 by an average of only 1.6 percent, according to the median estimate in the Bloomberg survey of economists.

Consumption rose by an average 5.7 percent a quarter in the five years before the recession began in December 2007.

"A weak labor market in a competitive environment puts downward pressure on wages," said Stiglitz, who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2001. "So, the possibility of another actual decline in wages cannot be ruled out."

Declining Incomes

The deflation danger is compounded by household debt, said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist at the consulting firm Capital Economics in Toronto. U.S. homeowners owed $13.9 trillion in the third quarter of 2008, compared with an average of $8.5 trillion in the 57 years the Fed has kept records.

"As incomes start to fall, that debt gets bigger in real terms: You have a smaller income to pay off that debt," Ashworth said. "Deflation combined with high indebtedness can be very problematic."

Inflation happens when too much money chases too few goods. Gary Shilling, president of the investment research firm A. Gary Shilling & Co. of Springfield, New Jersey, said that even as the Fed continues to pump money into the economy, the money supply, as measured by the central bank's M2 index, has dropped 1 percent since mid-June.

"Look what is happening to money supply, it is actually contracting now when supposedly the economy is picking up," Shilling said in an interview on Bloomberg Television Sept. 21. The economy is facing deflation "because you've got basically an excess-supply world," he said.

Profits Dwindling

Profits have evaporated as companies lose pricing power. The 419 non-financial firms in the S&P 500 reported earnings down 28 percent in the quarter ending June 30. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg anticipate a 30 percent decline for the third quarter, which ended this week.

"Businesses trying to sell products and services feel they are pushing on a string and are adjusting their behavior accordingly," Fisher, 60, the Dallas Fed president, said in a Sept. 3 speech at the University of California in Santa Barbara. "They are cutting prices."

Rodney McMullen, president of Cincinnati-based Kroger, blamed price reductions for second-quarter earnings that fell 10.5 percent short of analysts'estimates.

"We certainly sold more units. But lower retail prices and profit per unit pressured" results, McMullen told analysts in a Sept. 15 conference call. "We began to see deflation."

The average amount spent per transaction in August at Issaquah, Washington-based Costco was about 7 percent below last year, Bob Nelson, vice president for financial planning, said on a Sept. 3 conference call with investors.

At Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, "headwinds" from deflation were in part responsible for a 1.4 percent drop in second-quarter revenue to $100.9 billion, chief financial officer Thomas Schoewe told analysts Aug. 13.