Article Index

President Obama's Grand Bargain is DOA

President Obama proposed a “grand bargain” this week to break the fiscal stalemate in Washington– so what does that mean? Judging by this Republican reaction, it’s not what Obama planned…

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After 14 Years of Free-for-All, Glass-Steagall Is Back

The diminutive senator from Massachusetts has got the Big Banks shaking in their boots. Elizabeth Warren fired a Scud missile of legislation at too-big-to-fail banks to separate their commercial banking activities from their investment banking speculation.
Let's see, that might just limit the contagion during the next financial crisis. Find out why Shah Gilani thinks the senator is right on the money...

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Senators Move to Create 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act

Warren, John McCain (R-Ariz.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Angus Kin (I-Maine) introduced legislation that would again separate bank's traditional activities (like deposits currently backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.) from riskier activities like investment banking, insurance underwriting, swap dealing, and hedge funds.

Glass-Steagall was repealed by Congress back in 1999.

When the news broke of Warren’s determined attempt to bring back Glass-Steagall last week, it covered front pages across the country and instigated a firestorm of commentary on the future of the U.S. economy.

The problem, of course, is the ability to cut through the hype and understand if financial reform is necessary to fix the U.S. economy.

Rarely do I find myself championing regulatory efforts by the Federal Government, but the financial sector is an entirely different beast from energy, agriculture, and other resource sectors.

But reinstituting key elements of the Glass-Steagall Act is just one step on a long return to sanity for the economy.

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The Hidden Tax the IRS Levies on Free Speech

Ordinary Americans have been thrust into a nightmarish Orwellian daze. 

I see tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists waiving their hands about in joyful affirmation, and it feels plain unnatural. 

Yet, people are starting to ask strange questions which only the tinfoil hat-wearers were willing to entertain before. 

And it turns out the answers to those questions are frightening. 

Citizens are being spied on, bullied, and punished because their opinions differ from reigning political agendas. 

In fact, a litany of cases  recently uncovered shows that the IRS has targeted the free speech of vocal Obama opponents, including conservative non-profits, tea party activists and other individuals and businesses.

If you speak out against the president's agenda, there's a good chance the IRS will audit you. Or if you organize a grass-roots tea party group...the IRS will refuse to grant it tax-exempt status. But if you're left-wing, not only will the IRS rubber stamp your tax status, it'll leak to you the donor list of conservative groups for you to attack.

Keep quiet or else...

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How Big Corporations Are Destroying the "Free Market"

As an economist, I wince whenever I hear someone say that we live in a true free market.

The reality is we live in a semi-free market where regulation stifles business and corporate money influences and distorts what would normally be a highly competitive marketplace.

And over the last two decades, the situation has only gotten worse for consumers, producers, and defenders of the so-called "free market."

From 2008 to 2010, 30 major corporations paid more money in lobbying fees than they did in taxes, according to the Public Campaign.

But while traditional lobbying once centered on altering tax rates and encouraging legislation to liberalize and deregulate the economy, it has now evolved into a competitive weapon for companies trying to box out competitors and raise barriers to entry in their markets.

It's a business phenomenon that I like to call the "Rise of the Fifth Rail."

You see, in traditional markets, companies compete on four specific principles: Price, product quality promotion, and place (market access). These principles are known as the "four P's."

The first three are self-explanatory in that customers want the highest quality product at the cheapest price. Companies use promotional techniques to instill a need for its products and do so by marketing against the offerings of a competitor.

The fourth principle centers on a company's ability to reach new markets and still provide low prices for high-quality products. A strong coordinated distribution network tends to make this possible.

Naturally, when all four work together, you end up with a company like Walmart (NYSE: WMT), which has the ability to provide low, everyday prices due to its best-in-class distribution network.

But over the last few decades, this new phenomenon of using lobbying as a competitive tool has altered the course of market economics, and driven fair competition into the ground.

And that phenomenon is rotting the American free market from the inside.

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