Friday, March 30, 2012

Have Corporations Become Too Powerful?

Phỏng vấn tác giả David Rothkopf của cuốn sách mang tựa đề: "Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government — And the Reckoning That Lies Ahead".  Ông này cho biết rằng có 2000 công ty-tập đoàn tư nhân có sức mạnh, ảnh hưởng trên TG hơn 50 đến 80 quốc gia. ExxonMobil có thu nhập hằng năm khoảng $350 tỉ, gần bằng GDP của Thụy điển, hơn gấp 3 lần GDP của VN. Số quốc gia có sự hiện diện làm ăn của ExxonMobil lớn hơn gấp đôi số quốc gia mà Thụy điển có tòa đại sứ.

Số công nhân khắp nơi trên TG của Walmart đông hơn dân số của 100 nước. Thu nhập hàng năm của Walmart chỉ thấp hơn GDP của 25 nước đứng đầu TG.


By Morgan Korn | Daily Ticker

Have corporations become too powerful?

Few would disagree that the world's biggest companies appear to have as much influence — if not more — than sovereign nation states.

David Rothkopf argues in his new book, "Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government — And the Reckoning That Lies Ahead" that there "are probably 2,000" private-sector companies who have "more impact, more leverage and more global reach than 50 to 80 countries." These corporations are increasingly exerting their power and clout in the legislative and regulatory spheres, resulting in a new and alarming world power structure.

"They're bigger and more powerful than most people have imagined, including people who really ought to be paying attention to these things," Rothkopf says in an interview with The Daily Ticker. "We need to rein in and balance out this power."

Rothkopf uses ExxonMobil (XOM) and Wal-Mart (WMT) as two examples of corporations where the balance of power has tilted in favor of big business. Exxon, the world's second largest company after Apple (AAPL), operates in more than twice as many countries as Sweden has embassies.

Exxon's annual sales, which totaled $350 billion in 2011, were almost equal to Sweden's GDP. Exxon spent more money on political lobbying than Sweden did on its foreign policy in 2010, Rothkopf notes. As for Wal-Mart, one of the largest employers in the world, its employees greatly outnumber the populations of more than 100 countries. Wal-Mart's sales revenues are higher "than the GDPs of all but 25 countries," according to Rothkopf.

There are many more eye-popping examples in Rothkopf's "Power, Inc."

Investment firm BlackRock has more assets under management ($3.5 trillion) than China has in hard-currency reserves. International Paper owns more land than the country of Panama. And the $33.5 billion-endowed Gates Foundation gave more to charitable causes worldwide in 2010 than the World Health Organization had in its annual budget.

The influence of big business on politics has intensified after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Citizens United case that allowed corporations and unions to give unlimited campaign contributions. These millions of dollars in donations to super PACS have forever changed how elections in the U.S. are managed and operated. The movement to overturn the Supreme Court's landmark decision has been mounting at the state and national level but it will require a constitutional amendment to reverse the damage already done.

Rothkopf says there are government policies that can offset and counteract the phenomenon of corporate power.

"We need to get money out of politics, we need campaign finance reform, we need shorter elections, federally financed elections…and we need a fair tax system in this country," he says. "Money has such a huge and disproportionate and corrupting influence on politics."

If the U.S. does not fix these imbalances, Rothkopf warns, it will lead to income inequality, financial crises and very possibly a less competitive U.S. Furthermore, unchecked special interests have already squashed important and necessary legislation on climate change, financial regulation and labor and health issues he says.

Friday, March 16, 2012

10 reasons Wall Street will hit bottom, crash

By Paul B. Farrell Archives | Email alerts

March 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m. EDT

Commentary: Gambling-addicted banks need a Betty Ford Center

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Yes, Wall Street will crash. Has to. They’re gambling addicts. Dodged the bullet in 2008. But learned nothing. Now killing reforms. Teamed up with the Super Rich, CEOs, lobbyists, and crony politicians. It’s only a matter of time.

Yes, they’ll crash, again. No matter how anemic the recovery. No matter how much more debt they pile on taxpayers. No matter who’s president. Crash.

The Betty Ford Center, Rancho Mirage, Calif.

How do I know Wall Street will hit bottom? First off, most American know somebody who’s trapped in addictive behavior. I got a front-row seat years ago as a professional helping a few hundred addicts, alcoholics and gamblers getting help from the Betty Ford Center and others like it.

Guess what: Wall Street’s behavior is exactly like all other addicts, trapped in denial, they’ll risk destroying family, friends, health, careers and even America before stopping. They’re obsessed, hooked, blind, addicted to gambling.

Second, the Treasury secretary and his wife warned us. Seriously, Tim Geithner highlighted her in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Financial Crisis Amnesia,” that made clear how addictive and clueless Wall Street and their team are: “My wife looks up from the newspaper with bewilderment at another story about people in the financial world or their lobbyists complaining about Wall Street reform.”

Yes, amnesia. Wall Street’s got a bad case of denial, blind to “the lessons of the crisis and the damage it caused to millions of Americans.” So it’ll happen again. And soon. Why? Mr. Secretary’s diagnosis: “Amnesia is what causes financial crises.” Look closely.

Wall Street has all 10 self-destructive traits of a gambling addict

Yes, Wall Street insiders need treatment. They’re like addicts who will resist treatment till the bitter end, insisting there’s no problem, protecting their business as usual high-life. Their addiction has control of them, they’re in denial, in amnesia, blind to the long-term damage they’re doing to America.

So yes, Wall Street must crash, will hit bottom. America cannot reset the economy because Wall Street won’t go willingly. So here, you do the full diagnosis. Here are 10 characteristics of this self-destructive addictive personality type. Think about what is happening on Wall Street today, stuff like their war against the Volcker Rule. See why Wall Street’s collective mental state is so damaged it’s on track to hit bottom, crash and burn, in a meltdown more damaging than 2008, as they take down the rest of America.

Don’t believe me? Check out Wall Street’s 10 personality traits today:

1. Amnesia: Since the 2008 meltdown, Wall Street’s memory erased

Begin with Geithner diagnosis Wall Street’s addiction: Banks have “no memory of extreme crisis, no memory of what can happen when a nation allows huge amounts of risk to build up outside of the safeguards all economies require.” Amnesia makes Wall Street deaf. Can’t hear. Remember, bank insiders are short-term thinkers who naturally discount long-term costs to zero, pass them on to taxpayers and future generations.

2. Overoptimistic: Wall Street casino’s blowing another megabubble

Since the dot-com crash of 2000, when the Dow peaked at 11,722, to today with the market hovering around 13,000, Wall Street’s lost an inflation-adjusted return of about 20% of your retirement money. And economist Gary Shilling sees no growth through the next decade ... Nouriel Roubini warns of a decade of dark days ... Pimco’s Bill Gross sees a long “new normal” of lower returns … GMO’s Jeremy Grantham predicts “Seven Lean Years” … Martin Weiss warns that a “historic world-changing event is about to crush the U.S. economy and stock market.” Still, Wall Street lives in a fantasy land, ignores warning signs, pushing mega-IPOs, risky junk. Protect yourself.


3. Immature: totally narcissistic, the ‘King Baby’ syndrome

Yes, Wall Street’s an immature child. Members of AA call this the “King Baby” syndrome: People who never grow up. They want what they want when they want it. Now. No compromise, like today’s politicians. In “The Coming Generational Storm,” Larry Klotnikoff and Scott Burns warn of the massive debt we’re leaving for our “kids.” Eventually these kids will rebel against the $70 trillion burden. Wall Street’s addictive spenders are at risk of a revolution that will make the Arab Spring look like a picnic.

4. Greedy: Yes, “greed is still good” … for Wall Street’s gamblers

Michael Douglas’ famous indictment is truer today than ever. Vanguard’s founder Jack Bogle confronted the toxicity of out-of-control greed in his “Battle for the Soul of Capitalism.” Wall Street has become a soulless, amoral culture that cares nothing about the rest of America. Wall Street has sunk back deep into their business-as-usual culture of greed, blind to the public consequences of their behavior. Ethics? Integrity? Fiduciary duty? No. Investors come second. Insiders first. Always. And nothing will change till Wall Street hits bottom, crashes. Then we can truly reform Wall Street as we did in the 1930s.

5. Compulsive liars: Never trust Wall Street to tell the truth

Members of AA use a simple test: “How can you tell when an alcoholic or addict’s lying?” Answer: “His lips are moving.” You can’t believe anything said on Wall Street. Why this culture of lying? Simple: To create illusions, like “investors come first,” “you can trust us,” and “we the best interests of America at heart.” Wrong. Their sole loyalty is to insiders. Period. Carole Geithner sees through the illusions.

6. Insatiable: Wall Street’s hooked on ‘more is never enough’

Wall Street is past the point of no return, an addict incapable of stopping, must hit bottom. In “American Mania” psychiatrist Peter Whybrow says we’re a nation of addicts, we’re insatiable, “more is never enough.” Trillions in new debt annually, big bonuses, zero savings, as bank bailouts roll on, with the Fed feeding Wall Street cheap money. Forget reforms. No change till the banks hit bottom. A return to the Glass-Steagall might help, but Wall Street hates that as much as addicts hate Betty Ford.

7. Macho-macho: Regardless of the facts, they can’t admit failure

Addicts cannot see their weaknesses. In “Confronting Reality” Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan warn: “The greatest consistent damage to businesses and their owners is the result not of poor management but of the failure, sometimes willful, to confront reality.” Like Wall Street insiders, they simply cannot admit the gross mistakes, moral lapses and catastrophic errors in judgment that triggered the 2008 crash. They’re blind to their faults.

8. Unpredictable: Wall Street gamblers haven’t a clue about the future

In “Stocks for the Long Run” Jeremy Siegel studied market history from 1801 to 2000, comparing the biggest up and down days. Bottom line: Markets are random. There were no obvious reasons for 75% of the moves that trigger either long-term gains or long-term losses. Wall Street cannot predict crashes. But they can create them. Finance professors Terrance Odean and Brad Barber did some long-term research on both American and China investors. Conclusion: The “more you trade the less you earn.” Yes, returns for buy-and-hold investors are a third higher than heavy traders. No wonder Wall Street pushes active trading.

9. Irrational: Wall Street gets rich off investor irrationality

Behavioral economics is the psychology of investment decisions, based on Nobel Economist Daniel Kahneman who proved investors are irrational. That was 2002. Investors are still irrational, Wall Street as well as Main Street. And yet we still assume we’re making rational decisions! Admit it, investors are irrational. As behavioral finance guru Richard Thaler once admitted: Wall Street “needs investors who are irrational, woefully uninformed, endowed with strange preferences, or for some other reason willing to hold overpriced assets.” Main Street’s naive irrationality makes Wall Street very rich.

10. Myopic: Failure to think long-term guarantees another crash

Wall Street’s addiction to short-term thinking guarantees another crash. But worse, Wall Street’s shortsightedness is setting up an inevitable global catastrophe and self-destruction of their capitalist ideology. In “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” Jared Diamond warns that throughout history surviving cultures are always the ones that focus on long-term planning, far in advance of crises. Failed societies are the ones whose leaders “focus only on issues likely to blow up in a crisis within the next 90 days.” And that fits Wall Street’s blind obsession with quarterly earnings, annual bonuses, 1% rates, no Volker Rule, no reforms, ever, more is never enough.

So how did your “Addictive Personality Rating Score” add up? Chances are you diagnosed Wall Street with a perfect 10 out of 10. No wonder Wall Street’s insiders need treatment for their gambling addiction, at a Betty Ford Center.

9 TRILLION Dollars Missing from Federal Reserve, Fed Inspector General Can't Explain

9/10/2001: Rumsfeld says $2.3 TRILLION Missing from Pentagon

The War On Waste

February 11, 2009 9:17 PM

ByAleen Sirgany .On Sept. 10, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared war. Not on foreign terrorists, "the adversary's closer to home. It's the Pentagon bureaucracy," he said.

He said money wasted by the military poses a serious threat.

"In fact, it could be said it's a matter of life and death," he said.

Rumsfeld promised change but the next day – Sept. 11-- the world changed and in the rush to fund the war on terrorism, the war on waste seems to have been forgotten.

Just last week President Bush announced, "my 2003 budget calls for more than $48 billion in new defense spending."

More money for the Pentagon, CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, while its own auditors admit the military cannot account for 25 percent of what it spends.

"According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions," Rumsfeld admitted.

$2.3 trillion — that's $8,000 for every man, woman and child in America. To understand how the Pentagon can lose track of trillions, consider the case of one military accountant who tried to find out what happened to a mere $300 million.

"We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on," said Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Minnery, a former Marine turned whistle-blower, is risking his job by speaking out for the first time about the millions he noticed were missing from one defense agency's balance sheets. Minnery tried to follow the money trail, even crisscrossing the country looking for records.

"The director looked at me and said 'Why do you care about this stuff?' It took me aback, you know? My supervisor asking me why I care about doing a good job," said Minnery.

He was reassigned and says officials then covered up the problem by just writing it off.

"They have to cover it up," he said. "That's where the corruption comes in. They have to cover up the fact that they can't do the job."

The Pentagon's Inspector General "partially substantiated" several of Minnery's allegations but could not prove officials tried "to manipulate the financial statements."

Twenty years ago, Department of Defense Analyst Franklin C. Spinney made headlines exposing what he calls the "accounting games." He's still there, and although he does not speak for the Pentagon, he believes the problem has gotten worse.

"Those numbers are pie in the sky. The books are cooked routinely year after year," he said.

Another critic of Pentagon waste, Retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, commanded the Navy's 2nd Fleet the first time Donald Rumsfeld served as Defense Secretary, in 1976.

In his opinion, "With good financial oversight we could find $48 billion in loose change in that building, without having to hit the taxpayers."

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