The Daily Show on the sacrifices being asked of Teachers and Wall Street.

Ever since the last election the Republicans that have come to power seem to be hell-bent on doing everything they can to undermine the middle class while protecting those for whom the phrase “well off” doesn’t begin to describe how rich they are. If you were to believe the news items coming out of FOX News you’d think that Public School Teachers are spoiled fat cats who earn way more than they should while the uber-rich are struggling to make ends meet what with all the taxes they have to pay.

A point driven home by this segment from a recent episode of The Daily Show:

When you see these segments played side-by-side like this the blatant hypocrisy of FOX News and the Republicans stands out in stark relief. The fact that so many less-than-well-off Republicans buy into this bullshit is the part that truly amazes me.

Go watch Frontline’s episode on “The Warning.”

It will piss you off to no end, but it is worth watching. It details the story of Brooksley Born who was the one person who foresaw the coming trouble in the financial markets due to the lack of regulation for Over the Counter Derivatives. When she tried to do something about it they shut her down. Here’s Frontline’s summary of the show:

In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.

“I didn’t know Brooksley Born,” says former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, a member of President Clinton’s powerful Working Group on Financial Markets. “I was told that she was irascible, difficult, stubborn, unreasonable.” Levitt explains how the other principals of the Working Group—former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin—convinced him that Born’s attempt to regulate the risky derivatives market could lead to financial turmoil, a conclusion he now believes was “clearly a mistake.”

Born’s battle behind closed doors was epic, Kirk finds. The members of the President’s Working Group vehemently opposed regulation—especially when proposed by a Washington outsider like Born.

“I walk into Brooksley’s office one day; the blood has drained from her face,” says Michael Greenberger, a former top official at the CFTC who worked closely with Born. “She’s hanging up the telephone; she says to me: ‘That was [former Assistant Treasury Secretary] Larry Summers. He says, “You’re going to cause the worst financial crisis since the end of World War II.”… [He says he has] 13 bankers in his office who informed him of this. Stop, right away. No more.’”

Greenspan, Rubin and Summers ultimately prevailed on Congress to stop Born and limit future regulation of derivatives. “Born faced a formidable struggle pushing for regulation at a time when the stock market was booming,” Kirk says. “Alan Greenspan was the maestro, and both parties in Washington were united in a belief that the markets would take care of themselves.”

Now, with many of the same men who shut down Born in key positions in the Obama administration, The Warning reveals the complicated politics that led to this crisis and what it may say about current attempts to prevent the next one.

“It’ll happen again if we don’t take the appropriate steps,” Born warns. “There will be significant financial downturns and disasters attributed to this regulatory gap over and over until we learn from experience.”

And here’s a sneak peeks: Turns out you can watch the whole episode right here:

Watch the whole episode above, but be prepared for some chin bruising from it hitting the floor repeatedly. One of the most amazing aspects of the story is the fact that most of it takes place during the Clinton administration. One of the more frightening aspects of the story is the fact that at least two of the people involved are currently employed as President Obama’s financial advisers.

Obama caps executive pay on Wall Street to $500,000. Let the bitching begin!

So the other day Obama put out word that he was putting a new rule in place for the remaining TARP funds to put an end to the Wall Street companies continuing to hand out big bonuses—upwards of $18 Billion so far—using taxpayer money in spite of the fact that they fucked up the financial markets. It’s a bit of a slap in the face that they’d come begging for money and then use it to reward the very people who got us in this mess to begin with. Now any company getting a bailout must cap their executive pay at $500,000 plus possible stock options, but the stock options can’t be sold until the firm pays back the government what it borrowed. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Not if you’re a Wall Street executive it ain’t:

As news of the plan leaked last night, wealthy Wall Street went into panic mode, insisting that the caps would ruin the financial industry. It’s “a nightmare for any financial institution,” CNBC host Joe Kernen proclaimed this morning, while Fox Business host Alexis Glick said it was evidence of Obama being “a little anti-business.” Others insisted that the “draconian” caps would drive the “best and the brightest” away from Wall Street and that Obama’s anger over executive bonuses was misplaced:

That is pretty draconian — $500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus.” [James F. Reda, founder and managing director of James F. Reda & Associates]

If I didn’t pay [bonuses], the people were going to go. … These people didn’t choose to cure cancer. These people didn’t choose to do public service work…These people chose to make money.” [Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric]

The consequences of it are going to be a massive brain drain of senior talent from those companies that have taken TARP money to those companies that have not.” [Donald Straszheim, managing principal at Straszheim Global Advisor]

Companies that need the most talented people to fix their problems won’t be able to pay them.” [Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer]

Awwww! Poor fucking rich babies! How will they EVER survive on just $500,000?!?! Here’s an idea: Give me $500,000 and I’ll happily show you and I won’t even fuck up the economy in the process! Hell! I’ll be a one-man stimulus plan! You’d be amazed how much $500,000 a year would improve not only my quality of life, but my local economy to boot!

Cry me a fucking river.

NYT on the Wall Street Meltdown, what happened, and why it’ll affect all of us.

If, like me, your knowledge of economics is only slightly better than John McCains then you may be wondering just what the hell happened on Wall Street recently that has everyone freaking out. The New York Times Freakonomics Blog have kindly put together a F.A.Q. to help us out. The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s the gist of why it matters:

I do not work at Lehman or A.I.G. and do not own much stock; why should I care?

The concern for the man on Main Street is not the bankruptcy of Lehman, per se. Rather, it is the collective inability of major financial institutions to find funding.

As their own funding dries up, the remaining financial firms will be much more cautious in extending credit to normal firms and individuals. So even for people whose own circumstances have not much changed, the cost of the credit is going to rise. For an individual or business that falls behind on payments or needs an increase in short-term credit because of the slowing economy, credit will be much harder to obtain than in recent years.

This is going to slow growth. We have not seen this much stress in the financial system since the Great Depression, so we do not have any recent history to rely upon in quantifying the magnitude of the slowdown. A recent educated guess by Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs suggests that G.D.P. growth will be just about 2 percentage points lower in 2008 and 2009. But as he explains, extrapolations of this sort are highly uncertain.

In short the American financial market is in deep shit at the moment and it’s going to affect all of us in one way or another.