Once upon a time phrases like "the appearance of impropriety" or "potential conflict of interest" were enough to cause apoplectic shock, resignations, terminations and investigations by Justice and the FBI. Trust was something both business and government garnered and guarded. Of course, once upon a time, what was good for the nation was more important than political power, national news actually engaged in investigative reporting, and men walked on the moon.
Whether actually engaged in the CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligation) market or not, no one trusts any of the ratings agencies. The AAA investment rating has become meaningless, and thus worthless. I know what AAA SUPPOSEDLY means; I know what Moody, S&P, etc., proclaims the rating to mean. But what the AAA rating has come to mean to me: less than nothing; a bad bet. I've got better odds at the local Indian Casino.
There is no trust in the market by us mere mortals as government deregulation has begotten anarchy. It's the S&L debacle all over again, brought to us by the same Voodoo economic ideology! Until congress actually legislates directly to the ratings agencies conflicts of interest (which isn't going to happen as long as the obstructionist Republican and Democratic Wall Street Sycophant's prevail in the legislature), we mere mortals cannot tell what the difference is between Junk bonds, penny stocks, and AAA.
Between lovely lip service and opposition parties' obstructionism, the Congress, the Executive branch, and the Judiciary have done nothing to change the perception of mass collusion. The fact that the former and present head of Treasury, the former and present Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and the former and this Presidents chief economic advisers were all former employees of one of the principle financial institutions in the middle of our financial debacle lends no confidence or credence to any proposed solutions.
Anyone and everyone involved with the propagation of unregulated CDO's, Derivatives, Credit Default Swaps, and the rest of the Exotic Financial Instruments have no business being anywhere in government this side of a Congressional Subpoena or Grand Jury investigation! These unindicted career criminals should not be allowed to run a check-cashing store, much less major financial institutions; their involvement in this debacle should be a mark of shame. The economy cannot be repaired until the market fundamentals are restored and one can't get much more fundamental then basic trust in investment ratings.
Unfortunately, current and former
members of congress have immunity from acts of legislative malfeasance, greed
and incompetence. Corporate broadcast media are unwilling or incapable of
performing simple Lexus/Nexus, library of congress, and Cspan searches that run
contrary to their owner's ideology. Blatant conflicts of interest are downplayed
if not outright ignored by the media and Justice as former legislatures and
regulators morph from government service and political office to industry
insider and from corporate lobbyist into regulator and government official. Same
as it always was.
Public perception be damned! The contrived memory hole selectively disposes any correlation between legislative sponsorship and the eventual intended and unintended consequences. "No rules" is the literal definition of anarchy and anyone who is crying "deregulation" is not "conservative"; they are anarchists and profiteers; Confidence men setting up the Marks for fleecing. Caveat emptor.*
"Free markets" and "Free Trade" are unobtainable Ideals like Plato's perfect mirror world, "true democracy" or Aristotelian Crystal spheres; great for economic academia but limited in practical reality. Faith in free market and free trade solutions are to mammon worship as the Immaculate Conception and the Resurrection are to Christianity; yet even the most ardent fundamentalist do not step in front of a bus and expect God to save them from the laws of physics. Unlike the proverbial bus "Market Corrections" are almost never immediate, are completely amoral, and thus can ultimately entail the demise of millions of lives.
I fail to see how it is in our strategic national interest to systematically dismantle our manufacturing base. Cowabunga Man! No rules** may be great for Skateboarding and Extreme Skiing but it hardly is a bases for trust in financial instruments (oh that's right; it's all "free market." Just like the Madoff and Stanford funds until the ponzi aspect was revealed.
How can one claim to adhere to Adam Smith's "hidden hand" Capitalism, yet throw away Smith's (paraphrase) "manufacturing is the only form of true wealth'? Does anyone else remember "Representative" Gingrich waving around Toffler's 3rd Wave on the House floor pontificating as how we were going to all become "Knowledge workers" as justification for off-shoring American manufacturing? Newt's knowledge worker still requires 1st wave Agricultural and 2nd wave Industrial (manufacturing) to support Toffler's 3rd wave Information age!
All the bizness reporters, Wall Street insiders, corporate and guberment propagandists can plant stories day in and out how "the recession is over." Yeah, Right. And until it collapsed, Enron was a Great Buy. Congress never did fix all the Enron loopholes.
The thing we most need to come to grips with as a nation is that democracy*** and capitalism are not the same thing. In fact the two can be and often are mutually exclusive. Capitalism itself is not ubiquitous; there exist many forms besides the "gotcha" predatory destructive form advocated by the Milton Friedman Chicago School of Voodoo economics and so aptly portrayed by Gordon Gekko.
For US manufacturing to recover we must revisit the US trade treaties; in particular the 1990's arguments for externalization of costs associated with environmental pollution, labor exploitation, resource depletion, lack of infrastructure, and authoritarian rule. Granted much of these externalized costs are intangible and difficult to quantify (thus the drive to externalize) but not including such costs creates a false metric for Comparative advantage. That "giant sucking sound" has proven to be a valid and prophetic observation; "fair trade, not free trade."
Main street is beyond angry; around here many of us suburbanites are in what could be more aptly described as a quiet rage. There are individuals that have done more damage to our country and society then ALL OF THE STREET CRIME COMBINED (including drugs), yet to date none have been held accountable and the principles have even collected Bonuses!
The problem is exemplified by the corporate financed Tea Party; the participants know something's basically wrong but they can't put their finger on just who and what are to blame. The Right Wing takes advantage of misinformation and propaganda to both scapegoat the liberals and progressive movement by projecting their own desires and guilt. Bonuses for billionaires who did more economic damage than all the terrorists in the world combined! If there was any justice in the world these "geniuses," including past and present House, Senate, and Judiciary should be arrested for conspiracy, economic treason and continuing criminal enterprise; and frog-marched out of their estates handcuffed in their underwear!
Truly the big thieves hang the little ones: interesting times indeed!