Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stealing in Plain View

In Miami city manager resigns amid money mess, the Miami Herald concludes an article focusing on Miami's financial mess with a point that is generalizable to the ongoing global financial crisis. It ends as follows:

But the salary the city's top bureaucrat is leaving behind illustrates a clear issue the next city manager must confront: Hernandez earns $329,000 a year in salary and benefits -- making him just the 10th highest paid employee in Miami.

In other words, the city was "stealing" in plain view, simply by overpaying public servants, who in addition to salary receive great benefits.

The above comment ignores whatever less legal shenanigans may have occurred. Little would surprise anyone who knows the Miami tradition.

By analogy, consider the Bloomberg.com report on the AIG bailout titled Secret AIG Document Shows Goldman Sachs Minted Most Toxic CDOs.

This discusses certain secret aspects of the underlying securities that AIG "insured" via writing "protection" on credit default swaps. It is alleged that Goldman Sachs and several other Big Finance companies were foresighted enough to purchase insurance on the worst of the CDOs that were created.

While all this happened in secret, the bailouts are an example of stealing in plain view.

The net result of government and Fed actions has been to impose huge liabilities on taxpayers in order to pay the Big Finance companies virtually 100 cents on the dollar for the CDOs while millions of homeowners default on their mortgages because the financial companies and the government created and sustained a housing bubble. The vast bailouts were largely done in the open, with slipppery and shifting rationales.

Certainly Miami can also provide rationale for its compensation packages, but neither they nor the bailouts pass the sniff test.

We now may be seeing a similar thing with healthcare "reform". While not giving a whit about fighting for the "public option", Barack Obama and the Democrats appear to be going the route of "reconciliation" in the Senate so that they can give more business to insurance companies. That they are doing this just a few years after praising the filibuster and decrying reconciliation when the Republicans controlled the Senate is obviously less important to them than attaining/consolidating Federal control over the insurance industry and one-sixth of the economy in general.

It would be one thing if public polls consistently showed 3:2 support for Mr. Obama's plan. In fact, I believe that all major polls show the public is against it. In what is supposed to be a representative democracy, why is this particular legislation so important to fly in the face of Senate tradition when doing so is clearly against the public will?

In Miami and in finance, money is the ultimate measure of success. In the Federal government, that measure of success is power. The era of Bigger Government is here. The Feds are "stealing" power in plain sight.

Copyright Long Lake LLC 2010

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