Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wall Street Slams Main Street - Who Will Pay and Who Won't?

The charts and graphs of the Republican Recession of 2007 tell all sorts of stories, yet all those stories have a certain nauseating commonality.  They were comfortably detached, theoretical disasters.  You know, on Wall Street and in the stinky back rooms of investment banks and hedge fund offices.  In fact, during the early stages of the crime, the only real screaming was coming from Dubai, the Peoples' Republic and London as a few select billionaires experienced a bit of "road rash."
MeanMesa watched along with the rest of the United States -- and, after a couple of weeks in 2008 while the rest of the planetary economy "caught up" -- the rest of the world, as the crippling impact of the "missing money" slowly descended through the various "levels of Hell."  The Death Cloud gobbled up home mortgages, bond values, stock markets and pension funds as if they were no more than tantalizing snacks.

Meanwhile, those of us comfortably insulated by personal financial positions far below the poverty line looked on with furtive hope that we might remain "under the radar" of the approaching maelstrom.  Our fleeting hope was that the monster would somehow realize that we had nothing to steal.

That was then.  This is now.

Even a quiet, modest haven such as Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a month or two, breathed a little more freely.  It seemed that only the great and magnificent would suffer after all.  This little town had been fairly frugal with its income, a reflection of the essentially agrarian, common sense roots of its citizens.  However, that was not to be the case.

The poverty ridden State of New Mexico found itself trying to accommodate a budget shortfall of hundreds of millions.  The City of Albuquerque found itself facing a budget shortfall of tens of millions.  The State government, very shortly after that, found itself populated with, well, New Mexicans.  Likewise, the City government found itself populated with Commissioners who had no "fast and loose" brokerage experience which might provide any comforting "slight of hand" tricks to meet the problem.  Or even delay it.

Out came the hack saw.  The budget would be cut.  The calamity had officially arrived.  Of course, New Mexico was not alone on this dark hill of self-realization.  In fact, as states go, New Mexico was not as far down in the hole as many of our neighbors.  Still, there remained the, uh, "hack saw."

The State government in Santa Fe and the City government just down Lomas a few blocks from MeanMesa's Galactic Headquarters had become President Obama's Main Street.  We finally understood what he meant when he spoke of Wall Street and Main Street.

For a relaxing and "fun" interlude (courtesy of Huffington Post) visit Most memorable quotes from Goldman-Sachs CEO.

So, let's look at the blood.  Who will be paying and who will be "delivered" from the hack saw?

We can look at a few local developments, but they will also serve as examples.  The same kinds of difficult decisions are being faced routinely by most states in the country.  Further, at such moments of decision, it turns out that almost everyone's "ox will be gored."  However, there are exceptions, and those excepted from the thrumping turn out to be just as illuminating as those who aren't.

The main corporate health insurer -- spelled "m-o-n-o-p-o-l-y" -- doesn't intend to have their "ox gored."  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico just applied for the State Insurance Commission to allow them to raise rates by 25%.  Of course, these overly made up clowns danced into the Insurance Commission offices with the recently passed health reform bill clutched in their greedy little hands.

The mortgage bankers, when confronted with the prospect of reducing loan principals to reflect plummeting house values, adamantly insisted that, "No, the home owners must be skinned first.  As bankers, our profits are sacred!"  

Folks trying to live on Social Security checks were placed in the "pay" category.  There would be no cost of living increase for this year.  Of course, there was actually a cost of living increase, but that fact carried little weight in the bargain fest where everyone -- again, with a few exceptions -- would "suffer equally."

 The Republicans had carefully planned for such an encounter.  The "cost of living" included no concern for the cost of food, gasoline, natural gas or medicine.  All those prices went up.  The "cost of living," as modified by corrupt neo-cons in the Congress would be based on the price increases of V-8 pick up trucks and flat screened, plasma televisions from China.

One interesting exception was the "first responders" crowd.  Protected by a powerful union, no wage cuts or trimmed benefit packages would be extracted from the police and firemen.  Apparently, no matter how grave the city's deficit became, everyone else would suffer first.  Those suffering would include the public schools and the teachers.  They would pay.

MeanMesa watches the news reports from Greece.  The public employees there are the ones who, refusing to countenance even a modest pay cut to save the country, are presently rioting.  Could Albuquerque be another Athens?

So, MeanMesa visitors, keep an eye on just where your local and state governments are cutting costs as they try desperately to "make ends meet."  All of this is being settled now -- at least "hack saw-wise" -- but it will rise again just as certainly as tomorrow's New Mexico sun when the "gored oxen" show up for the mid-term elections this November.

All the "non-payers" will continue to insist that the jobs they do are so important that no pay cuts will be tolerated.  So far, they have done fairly well with that approach, but the "times, they are a'changin' "

Oh, lest we forget.  The "Masters of the Universe" on Wall Street will be included in the "non-payer" category.  Miscreants such as the pirate hooligans running Goldman-Sachs, having been frightened ever so slightly by the Security Exchange Commission's law suit for corporate fraud, are willing -- finally -- to say "What we did  was not illegal.  It might have been wrong, but it was not illegal.  However, we intend to keep the money, so screw you!"

We all know that the exact reason that Goldman's business practices are not illegal is because they purchased enough Republican Senators during the autocracy to make sure such a law was never passed.  Never discussed.  Never considered.  The only consideration regarded just what such an oversight might be worth.

When the "hill billies and the bigots" begin to bleed a little, they will become even more racist than before.  The attack on Arizona's Mexicans is only the warm-up.

A Post Posting Script: (PPS)

In the middle of this post, MeanMesa went downstairs to catch the local weather forecast.  New Mexico enjoyed a fairly normal day of spring-time wind -- the highest gusts were 99 mph.  Of interest, however, was not the weather forecast but an unusual commercial.

It was Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico!  Naturally, there was no time to mention the 25% rate increase.  Instead, the message was:  "We don't care about Wall Street.  We care about you."


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