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Civility is the ability to disagree with others while respecting their sincerity and decency. Civility begins with understanding. We can best understand our political differences by first understanding the moral foundations upon which political views are built. This site features research, resources, and commentary related to the pursuit of Civility through understanding.

Economics Blog

  • Wrongful Wealth:  Will Abuse in the Euro Zone Bring Down the World?
    Wrongful Wealth: Will Abuse in the Euro Zone Bring Down the World?

      There is a “shadow banking” system that has massively and often unknowingly leveraged client assets into possibly the largest credit bubble the world has ever seen.  Because of more favorable rules, much of the leverage has occured in the Euro, meaning a collapse of the Euro will be much more catastrophic than the public is aware. One of the shadow banking systems favorite tools is re-hypothocation.   This means institutions can use client funds as collateral for the institutions own investments.  The institutions take $1 of client collateral and use it to purchase $1.40 to $2.00 of investments for the institution.   So for $1 of client money, the client may be trading at leverage, and the institution is trading at leverage. A much more thorough explantion is provided by Reuters, who concludes The volume and level of re-hypothecation suggests a frightening alternative hypothesis for the current liquidity crisis being experienced by banks and for why regulators around the world decided to step in to prop up the markets recently. To date, reports have been focused on how Eurozone default concerns were provoking fear in the markets and causing liquidity to dry up. Most have been focused on how a Eurozone [...]

  • Wrongful Wealth creation in the mortgage crisis
    Wrongful Wealth creation in the mortgage crisis

    CBS’s 60 Minutes documents how wrongful wealth was created in the run up to the mortgage crisis. Mortgages are ‘originated’ between the borrower and the original lender through the services of it’s brokers.  The originating lender then may keep the loan, or may decide to resell the loan to another lender.  Originating lenders can also bundle loans into a package and then resell the package.   The originating lender makes money from the fees charged to originate the loan, and from selling the loan to others. When reselling the loans to other lenders, the originating lender represents that the loans meet certain guidelines pertaining to the ability of the borrower to repay the loan and the value of the collateral.  High risk loans (sub prime), with less qualified buyers and less collateral, command higher fees and higher interest rates, and earned higher profits for the originating lender.  Much higher. If the originating lenders made loans that did not meet the standards, and then knowingly resold these loans to other lenders, they would be profiting from a crime.  Managers and executives who received compensation from the resale of the misrepresented loans would be profiting from a crime.  If the originating companies stock [...]

  • Wrongful Wealth Humor, Jon Stewart on TARP
    Wrongful Wealth Humor, Jon Stewart on TARP

    Not sure whether to laugh or cry over this excellent piece by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show.   The original Bloomberg article focuses on $13 billion in profit that banks accrued from $7.7 trillion in near zero rate loans from the Fed.   The US government spends $40 billion a day, to put the $13 billion in context.  The Fed claims the loans have been repaid and that they actually made money for the US government.  Well, that may be so if you choose the ignore the inflationary effect of printing up $7.7 trillion.  The money may have been “paid back”, but it’s still in the money supply.  To put that inflation of the money supply into perspective, it’s about half of our annual GDP. The Bloomberg article also highlights the fact that decision makers in Congress were kept in the dark.  A Congress that had trouble passing a $700 billion TARP program surely would have been impacted by the news that the Fed was bailing out the banks with $7.7 TRILLION. Enjoy… The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c America’s Next TARP Model Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily [...]

  • Wrongful Wealth is the enduring message of Occupy Wall Street
    Wrongful Wealth is the enduring message of Occupy Wall Street

    Everybody (left and right, young and old) agrees fairness is important. Much depends on how fairness is understood. Fairness is proportionality.  The left tends to view proportionality in terms of outcomes, therefore disproportionate wealth accumulation is seen as unfair.  The right tends to view proportionality in terms of effort, so wealth unevenly distributed yet proportionate to effort is fair. Where the two find common ground is opposing wealth not accumulated by effort, but by cheating, illegallity, gaming of the system, political manipulation, etc..  Wrongful wealth is universally seen as unfair. A smart, technically enabled, generation coming of age with a sense that they are/have been screwed can’t be good. For them, it’s the fault of everyone between 45-65.  And they’re right.   It is this age group that wrote the tax code and the federal regulations. We all know, and have known for a long time, that there is a game (many games) going on, and it’s rigged. Bloomberg knew the game was riggied when they fought all the way to the Supreme Court for a Freedom of Information Act request to release data on just who the Fed bailed out.  What they found won’t surprise you, won’t even shock you. Members of [...]

  • Economic Crisis
    Economic Crisis

    ‘Occupy Wall Street’ has one thing right:  The U.S. is in crisis.  Here is a tour de force documentation of exactly where we stand.   Originally posted by Jim Quinn at   WHAT THIS COUNTRY NEEDS NOW IS HOPE   Finch: Why are you doing this? Evey Hammond: Because he was right. Finch: About what? Evey Hammond: That the world needs more than just a building right now. It needs hope.   The dialogue above occurred at the end of the dystopian movie V for Vendetta. It is a tale of revenge and restoring hope among citizens who had chosen safety and security over freedom and liberty. Even though this movie was fictional and adapted from a comic strip, its message and warnings should be heeded. Millions of middle class citizens in the U.S. sink deeper into despair every day. Day by day hope is being lost that the future for our children will be better than our past. The political, financial, and corporate leaders of our country are intellectually and morally bankrupt. The major Wall Street banks are bankrupt. Social Security is bankrupt. Medicare is bankrupt. The whole damned world is bankrupt. Anyone with an unbiased view of [...]

  • Buffet Rule Explained
    Buffet Rule Explained

    Class warfare, or fairness?  The Brookings Institute explains. From a well done article at concisely describing the “Buffett Rule”.   Since it is brief, we quote the entire article below: On Monday, the administration released its deficit reduction blueprint. One part of the administration’s proposal, which has received enormous attention, was that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction observe the “Buffett Rule” if it attempts tax reform. The furor over this proposal is surprising and the debate about it seems to have largely missed the point. For background, the proposed Buffett Rule, so named from Warren Buffett’s op-ed in the New York Times, says, “No household making over $1 million annually should pay a smaller share of its income in taxes than middle-class families.” Setting aside the ambiguous definition of “middle-class,” the intent of the proposed rule is clear: tax reform should follow the principle of vertical equity, a hallmark of the progressive tax system—that as one’s income increases so should one’s tax payments as a share of income. To see why the furor is surprising, note that the Buffett rule is an extremely mild form of progressivity—it just says that tax payments as a share of income [...]

  • Krugman Economics Calls for Stimulus
    Krugman Economics Calls for Stimulus

    Krugman: More stimulus.  Much more. The nobel laureate argues we aren’t doing enough and urgently need to reverse course through government spending and expansion of the money supply. What should be happening? The answer is that we need a major push to get the economy moving, not at some future date, but right now. For the time being we need more, not less, government spending, supported by aggressively expansionary policies from the Federal Reserve and its counterparts abroad. And it’s not just pointy-headed economists saying this; business leaders like Google’s Eric Schmidt are saying the same thing   Be sure to catch Eric Schmidt’s recent comments too… But the current strategy is ludicrous. You have a situtation where the private sector sees essentially no growth in demand. The classic solution is to have the government step in, and with short-term initiatives help stimulate that demand. If they do it right, they’ll invest in income and growth producing things, like highways and bridges and schools.

  • A "Little" Inflation
    A “Little” Inflation

      Paul Volcker cautions the Fed against playing fast and loose with inflation.

  • Government Money Creation Dishonest?
    Government Money Creation Dishonest?

      Top strategist: “I believe printing money to be a fundamentally dishonest endeavour” Dylan Grice takes a strong stand against government money creation.  Mr. Grice is one of the world’s foremost finacial strategists according to the Thomson Extel Survey. Here’s his view, heavily edited for brevity.  Read the full transcript here. …I believe printing money to be a fundamentally dishonest endeavour. Think about how it works. When the central bank, at zero cost, increases the monetary base by 1%, where does that money go? Answer: into the market for government bonds. By issuing bonds to itself the government seems to have miraculously raised revenue without burdening anyone else. This is probably why the mechanism is universally adopted throughout the world’s financial system. Yet free money does not, and cannot, exist… someone, somewhere has to pay. But who? This is where the subtle dishonesty resides, because the answer is that no-one knows…The point is we can’t know who will pay, only that someone will pay. Thus the government has raised revenues without even knowing upon whom the burden falls, let alone telling them. The burden of this money printing…seeps silently into the economy, falling indiscriminately but indubitably on unseen, unknowing victims.   [...]

  • 8 of 10 wealthiest Members of Congress are Democrats
    8 of 10 wealthiest Members of Congress are Democrats

    Huffington Post published top 10 wealthiest members of Congress, 8 are Dems, 2 Republican.  Interesting comments from readers include this: “Capitalism — A brain-power dictatorship Brains like handsome good looks pass from father to son, those with excessive wealth run things and until we reach the ultimate conclusion of evil they always shall. For we are all given a different ability to earn income as a test, to see if we pass our excessive wealth down to those less fortunate where it belongs.”

Politics Blog

  • How Libertarians View Liberals
    How Libertarians View Liberals

    Libertarian beliefs about Liberal beliefs. In his book The Revolution, Ron Paul cites an essay by William Graham Sumner titled “The Forgotten Man“.   Mr. Sumner began the essay with this: The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C’s interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man. We thought it would be interesting to list the assumptions underlying this framework as a way for Libertarians to make their case.  From the Libertarian perspective then, Liberals assume that: A & B know what’s best for D. A & B are not self-interested C will not help D unless A & B compel him. A & B are fine with using force to coerce C into helping D. A & B are not fine with C using force to resist helping D. A & B prefer C to be unarmed. [...]

  • Jon Stewart on Values Voters
    Jon Stewart on Values Voters

    Jon Stewart on Values Voters

  • Liberals for Elitism
    Liberals for Elitism once featured an article by Raymond J. Learsy (a successful oil trader turned analyst).   He makes an argument that if we could only be more like France , well, everything would be better.  Why?  Because France is  ruled by elites. Mr. Learsy seems to follow in the footsteps first laid down by Walter Lippman in Public Opinion.  Published in 1922 (when the author was 33 years old), it is one of the earliest and most explicit calls for elitism.  Lippman  believed the common man lacked sufficient understanding to enable him to participate meaningfully in public decisions.  From Wikipedia… Early on Lippmann said the herd of citizens must be governed by “a specialized class whose interests reach beyond the locality.”  This class is composed of experts, specialists and bureaucrats. The experts, who often are referred to as “elites,” were to be a machinery of knowledge that circumvents the primary defect of democracy, the impossible ideal of the “omnicompetent citizen”. The clarion call from the 1920′s is taking up by Mr. Learsy, who seems to be channeling Mr. Lippman when he writes France’s governance emanates from an elite corp of public servants, graduates of the “grands ecoles” who run the sinews [...]

  • Does Hate & Fear bother you?

    Does it bother anyone that the Republican Party, with Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh as standard bearers, so eagerly traffics in hate and fear and not much else?  This strategy is of course effective, because hate and fear are easily packaged into sound bites for media consumption. Still, I should think thoughtful Republicans would be dismayed by the ascendancy of the rabid right.

  • Equality of Opportunity or Equality of Outcome?
    Equality of Opportunity or Equality of Outcome?

      Is the role of government to provide equality of opportunity, or equality of outcome?   They are mutually exclusive. Equality of opportunity necessarily means inequality of outcome.  People are not born with equal ability, equal circumstances, and equal luck. Equality of outcome necessarily means individual success must either be prevented or appropriated back to the average, so that others may be lifted. Which is more fair? Much depends on how fairness is understood. Fairness is proportionality.  The Left (progressives), who rely on the moral foundations related to Compassion, tend to view proportionality in terms of outcomes, therefore disproportionate wealth accumulation is seen as unfair.  The Right (conservatives), who rely on moral foundations related to both Compassion and social Harmony, tend to view proportionality in terms of effort, so wealth unevenly distributed yet proportionate to effort is fair. Where the two find common ground is opposing wealth accumulated not by effort, but by cheating, illegallity, gaming of the system, political manipulation, etc..  Wrongful wealth is universally seen as unfair.  Wrongful wealth violates equality of outcomes and equality of opportunity. Few people would take equality of opportunity so far as to insure that each citizen received exactly the same amount of society’s production.  Most people favor equality [...]

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