الجمعة، أكتوبر 24، 2008

Congressional Confessions 4

John Cassidy
New Yorker/ Conde Nast Portfolio

He stands accused of making two major mistakes: one, keeping interest rates low for too long and allowing a housing bubble to occur; and, B, abdicating his responsibility as a regulator.

Blame belongs to many
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Alice Rivlin, is this essentially what Alan Greenspan has said before, we just didn't hear it clearly enough?

ALICE RIVLIN: I don't think so. And I wouldn't be as harsh as Mr. Cassidy. We can't blame all of this on one person. There was blame to go around.

We were victims, the whole country, of a collective delusion that housing prices would keep on going up. And I think we lost control of our common sense.

Many people who bought mortgage-backed securities, who bought other securities that were related to them, didn't ask one simple question, which was, what happens to the value of these securities when housing prices go down, as they eventually would?

Now, Mr. Greenspan said that today, basically. He said the models were based -- the models of risk were based on the past. And that's right.

But you didn't have to be a genius to know that this couldn't continue forever and that the question -- what happens when prices go down? -- should have been asked by a lot of people in the whole system.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You're saying beyond the Fed?

ALICE RIVLIN: Certainly beyond the Fed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: John Cassidy, the other -- go ahead.

JOHN CASSIDY: I mean, I agree with that. I don't think Greenspan is wholly responsible. Obviously, he's not.

You know, the investors were responsible; the bankers were responsible; the media was responsible for not reporting more aggressively on this.

But, you know, the head of the Federal Reserve is meant to be the most senior regulator in the country. And in this instance, you know, he stands accused of making two major mistakes: one, keeping interest rates low for too long and allowing a housing bubble to occur; and, B, abdicating his responsibility as a regulator.

He didn't really address the first of those things today. He did address the second and said he made a partial mistake in not agreeing to the regulation of credit default swaps. But that was the first time he said anything like that. And it was a semi-mea culpa, I guess you'd call it, but I don't think it went all the way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Alice Rivlin, what about that? I mean, he did acknowledge today -- he said he's found a flaw in his understanding, what had been his understanding of how credit markets work. Is that -- how significant...

ALICE RIVLIN: Oh, I think that's very significant, and it isn't just Alan Greenspan. A lot of people were very committed to an ideology, to use that word, that said markets work perfectly or almost perfectly to channel capital into the right places and to correct mistakes.

Well, they don't. When we get into a situation where we have this collective delusion that something that can't go on forever is going to go on forever, we need something to pull us back from the brink.

And I think we'll now have more sensible regulation. I hope we don't over-regulate, but regulation that is somewhere in the middle between "markets always work" and "markets don't work at all."

We need markets. But we need to correct the rules and modernize the regulation so it keeps up with the fast changes.

Alice Rivlin
Former Vice Chair, Federal Reserve Board

And the real question is, should they have used interest rates to slow down a housing bubble and punish the rest of the economy? I don't think that would have been possible.

Debating Greenspan's influence
JUDY WOODRUFF: John Cassidy, is it so clear that, if the decisions that the committee was grilling Alan Greenspan and John Snow and Chris Cox about today, if those decisions had been different, that everything we're going through now could have been avoided or what?

JOHN CASSIDY: I mean, that's an impossible question to answer. I mean, Greenspan's supporters would say that he couldn't have made the difference. I'd say I don't think -- the counterfactual is impossible to define, but I think it would have made some difference.

I mean, these markets just weren't regulated, the credit default swaps. And as Alice says, the mortgage markets were only regulated at the local level.

There were people inside the Fed who were raising issues about these things. Ned Gramlich, the late Ned Gramlich, who was a Fed governor, did issue some warnings to Greenspan and was ignored.

Brooks Lee Bonn, the ex-head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, tried to get her agency to regulate some of these derivatives and Greenspan brushed her off.

Now, would that have made all the difference? I don't know. It is very, very difficult to deal with a speculative bubble once it gets going. But what you can try and do is try and stop one beginning in the first place. And I think, you know, most of the mistakes were made early on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How much difference do you think it would have made?

ALICE RIVLIN: I think it would have made some difference. I don't agree that keeping interest rates too low, too long was a major part of it. With hindsight, it might seem to be.

But the Fed was in a difficult situation, because the economy wasn't growing very well. There wasn't any inflation. They're supposed to look after the whole economy.

And the real question is, should they have used interest rates to slow down a housing bubble and punish the rest of the economy? I don't think that would have been possible.

It would have meant raising interest rates so high that it would have killed economic growth. And some of the same people that are fussing it, Mr. Greenspan now, would have begun outraged by that.

John Cassidy
New Yorker/ Conde Nast Portfolio

I think today was more about, you know, what happened in the past. Everybody -- even Greenspan, it appears -- now agrees that there needs to be some form of regulation of these products.

Steps for the future
JUDY WOODRUFF: Does today -- John Cassidy, does what we heard today provide clarity, in terms of what should be done in the future?

JOHN CASSIDY: I think today was more about, you know, what happened in the past. Everybody -- even Greenspan, it appears -- now agrees that there needs to be some form of regulation of these products.

When you get into the details, it's very complicated about what actually needs to be done. I think what's going to have to happen is the next president is going to have to appoint some sort of bipartisan panel or some experts panel, perhaps led by Greenspan's predecessor, Paul Volcker, or somebody of that stature, to come up with a set of detailed suggestions which Congress can then deal upon.

Because one thing we've seen -- I know Greenspan stressed today quite correctly -- the financial system is now incredibly complicated, with all sorts of markets in all sorts of places interconnected. So, you know, you can't rush into regulating.

And as Alice said, there is a danger of over-regulating. But I think something needs to be done.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Alice Rivlin, as we referred in the report there, Alan Greenspan was called the Oracle, the Maestro. What is his reputation -- how has all this affected him and the regard in which he's held?

ALICE RIVLIN: Well, I personally have a high regard for Alan Greenspan. I worked with him. I enjoyed it. He's very smart.

But he is ideological. He did stand in the way of modernizing our regulatory system. And I believe that was a mistake and maybe he does now, too.

The financial structure was changing very, very rapidly, new products, new institutions, and we didn't modernize the regulatory system to keep up with that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are going to leave it there. Alice Rivlin, John Cassidy, thank you both.

JOHN CASSIDY: Thank you.

Congressional Confessions 3

Alice Rivlin
Former Vice Chair, Federal Reserve Board

As this housing bubble grew and took off, lenders were making a lot of loans that they shouldn't have made. And borrowers were borrowing when they shouldn't have made them.

Forecasting the crisis
JUDY WOODRUFF: To get some perspective on today's hearing and what was revealed, we get the views of two people who've watched the Fed closely over the years, one from the inside and one from the outside.

Alice Rivlin served as vice chair of the Federal Reserve in the late 1990s. Also a former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton, she's now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

And John Cassidy, he's a staff writer at the New Yorker and contributing editor at Conde Nast Portfolio. He has covered Alan Greenspan for both magazines.

Thank you both for being with us.

Alice Rivlin, to you first. When Alan Greenspan says we were just not smart enough, no one was smart enough to be able to forecast what was going to happen, first of all, do you agree with him?

ALICE RIVLIN, Former Vice Chair, Federal Reserve Board: Not completely. I think what we failed to do was look at where the incentives in our system were going to get us into trouble.

Now, one was in subprime mortgages. We were not regulating the lenders that were putting out a lot of bad loans, in retrospect.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you think that information wasn't available?

ALICE RIVLIN: Well, no, I think it was available. These institutions were not federally regulated banks, mostly. They were mortgage lenders who were regulated by the states, if at all.

But as this housing bubble grew and took off, lenders were making a lot of loans that they shouldn't have made. And borrowers were borrowing when they shouldn't have made them.

And then there was another complication, several more, but these loans were being packaged and sold to somebody else to be backing for mortgage-backed securities.

Now, in the old days, the lender really had to watch out that he wasn't making a bad loan because he might not get repaid. But in this new world, he didn't have to worry about that. He could sell this loan to somebody else and then take the money and make another loan. So we got the incentives wrong there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you're saying that the information was there and people did have -- should have known better, is basically what you're -- let me bring John Cassidy in.

How significant is it, this statement by Mr. Greenspan that people just didn't know enough to do anything about it?

JOHN CASSIDY, The New Yorker/Portfolio Magazine: Well, it was a remarkable appearance all told, if you think back to 10 years ago, even 5 years ago, how, you know, in what awe Greenspan was held. I covered a lot of hearings on the Hill, and he was treated with great deference, as your report said.

But actually I think he didn't really change his tune that much. During the speculative bubble of the '90s, he used to say, "This is too complicated. Nobody can really understand if it is a bubble."

Then we had a second bubble, the housing bubble, which was obviously linked to the subprime problem. And now he's saying, "Well, that was too complicated, too. Nobody could really understand that, either."

Now, if you think about that, what he's really saying is, you know, he's the top regulator in the country. He's the head of the central bank, but he can't really do anything about the major problems in the economy.

And I think, you know, that's just pushing it a bit.

Congressional Confessions 2

Before I present these questions and answers, I must admit that I am a great fan of Mr Greenspan. In Fact, I remember buying his book "Turbulent Times" with the last few quids I had in my pocket and I had by mistake left my wallet, cash and credit cards at the hotel, so I spent the entire afternoon sitting on Hide Park benches with no food or drink just flipping through the pages of that most interesting book. Then I had to walk back to the hotel, which was a nice and not too long of a walk anyway!




to Congress, Predicts

More Economic Problems

Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan told Congress Thursday the economic crisis unveiled "a flaw" in his view of world markets. Economic analysts discuss his testimony and legacy.

JIM LEHRER: Judy Woodruff has our financial crisis story tonight.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The former chair of the Federal Reserve and one of the best-known names in finance returned to Capitol Hill today for the first time since the financial crisis began.

Alan Greenspan, who headed the Fed for 18 years, until early 2006, appeared with the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Chris Cox, and former Treasury Secretary John Snow, at a hearing examining the role of federal regulators in the current crisis.

ALAN GREENSPAN, Former Federal Reserve Chairman: We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century credit tsunami. Central banks and governments are being required to take unprecedented measures.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Greenspan has been criticized for decisions he made earlier this decade that some economists charge helped to foster the housing bubble.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), California: And my question for you is simple: Were you wrong?


JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats on the committee, led by the chairman, Henry Waxman of California, pressed Greenspan on whether his fundamental economic philosophy was mistaken.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: The question I have for you is, you had an ideology, you had a belief that free, competitive -- and this is your statement -- "I do have an ideology. My judgment is that free, competitive markets are by far the unrivaled way to organize economies. We've tried regulation. None meaningfully worked." That was your quote.

You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others. And now our whole economy is paying its price.

Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?

ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, remember that what an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to -- to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not.

And what I'm saying to you is, yes, I found a flaw. I don't know how significant or permanent it is, but I've been very distressed by that fact.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality...

ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?

ALAN GREENSPAN: That is -- precisely. No, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When he was Fed chair, Greenspan made many appearances before congressional committees and was generally treated with deference. His opinion was widely sought and his words heeded.

But today, in the aftermath of the financial meltdown, Greenspan faced a much rougher reception from Democrats.

Ohio's Dennis Kucinich.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), Ohio: Â Now, Mr. Greenspan, before the collapse of the housing bubble, didn't you also say that the U.S. has not experienced housing slumps to justify your policy that there would be no bubble? And can you tell this committee when it occurred to you that there was a housing bubble?

ALAN GREENSPAN: I knew -- the housing bubble became clear to me sometime in early 2006, in retrospect. I did not forecast a significant decline because we had never had a significant decline in prices.

And it's only as the process began to emerge that it became clear that we were about to have what essentially was a global decline in home prices.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans sought to shift the focus to the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage entities in the crisis.

Idaho Republican Bill Sali asked SEC Chair Cox whether those responsible for the crisis will pay a price.

REP. BILL SALI (R), Idaho: Are the people that have caused this, is somebody going to go to jail?

CHRISTOPHER COX, Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission: There is no question that, somewhere in this terrible mess, many laws were broken. Right now, the criminal authorities and the civil authorities, not only in the federal government and the state governments, but in other countries, because this is now, as you know, a matter of intense international focus, are working to make sure that lawbreakers are held accountable and people are brought to justice.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Greenspan and Cox contended regulators cannot predict crises. Chairman Waxman took issue with that.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Well, I want smart regulation. But I want to point out that what I'm hearing from our witnesses today is that they just didn't know. They couldn't make projections about what the future was or they're not always right.

The truth of the matter is that there were a lot of warning signs. The reasons why we set up your agencies and gave you budget authority to hire people is so that you can see problems developing before they become a financial crisis.

To tell us afterwards, when we are now faced with the disaster that we're seeing, that you couldn't have foreseen it just doesn't satisfy me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Greenspan, who was once dubbed the Oracle in the world of finance, said his predictive powers were limited.

ALAN GREENSPAN: So it strikes me that, if you go back and ask yourself how in the early years anybody could realistically make a judgment as to what was ultimately going to happen to subprime, I think you're asking more than anybody is capable of judging.

And we have this extraordinarily complex global economy, which as everybody now realizes is very difficult to forecast in any considerable detail.

And, Mr. Chairman, I know -- I agree with you in the fact that there were a lot of people who raised issues about problems emerging, but there are always a lot of people raising issues, and half the time they're wrong. And the question is, what do you do?

I mean, you point out quite correctly that the Federal Reserve had as good an economic organization as exists, and I would say, in the world. If all those extraordinarily capable people were unable to foresee the development of this critical problem, which undoubtedly was the cause of the world problem with respect to mortgage-backed securities, I have to -- I think we have to ask ourselves, why is that?

And the answer is that we're not smart enough as people. We just cannot see events that far in advance. And unless we can, it's very difficult to look back and say, why didn't we catch something?

Domino-Effect Causing Fiscal Meltdown

Fiscal Meltdown

USA Today

How Congress set the stage
for a fiscal meltdown

By Ken Dilanian, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — During last week's presidential debate, John McCain and Barack Obama sparred over what caused the financial crisis.

"The match that lit this fire," McCain said, came from the government-sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which backed risky home loans "with the encouragement of Sen. Obama and his cronies … in Washington."

Obama shot back: "The biggest problem was the deregulation of the financial system. … Sen. McCain, as recently as March, bragged about the fact that he is a deregulator."

It was a classic example of Washington finger-pointing. McCain and the GOP blame Fannie and Freddie — which were taken over by the government last month — because the troubled mortgage agencies' biggest backers were Democrats who said they wanted to increase access to homeownership.

Meanwhile, Obama and other Democrats highlight Republicans' longtime focus on limiting regulations for the financial industry.

No single government decision sparked the crisis, but collectively the candidates had a point: Both parties in Congress played important roles in setting the stage for the ongoing financial meltdown.

They did so in moves that reflected not just their ideological priorities, but also the wishes of special interests that have spent millions aggressively lobbying Washington and contributing to lawmakers' campaigns.

By not reining in increasingly risky investments made by Fannie and Freddie — and by keeping complex financial instruments known as derivatives free from most government oversight — Congress chose not to impose barriers that economists widely agree could have helped stave off the crisis that continues, even after lawmakers approved a $700 billion emergency bailout package for Wall Street.

Here is a look at how Congress' actions on two key fronts became significant factors in the financial crisis:

1. Not checking derivatives

In 2000, a united financial services industry persuaded Congress to allow a vast, unregulated market in derivatives, which are contracts in which investors essentially bet on the future price of a stock, commodity, mortgage-backed security or other thing of value.

Derivatives — so named because their value derives from something else — also are known as hedges, swaps and futures. They are designed to lower risks for buyers and sellers, but in some cases, economists now say, they gave investors a false sense of security.

Today, derivatives are compounding the risks to a shaky economy because they are tied to complex mortgage securities that have plummeted in value. Instruments called credit default swaps, for example, were supposed to insure investors against default of mortgage-backed securities. With a mass collapse of those bonds, it's not clear how the swaps can pay off.

The ultimate fear, as Fortune magazine put it, is that swaps can cause "a financial Ebola virus radiating out from a failed institution and infecting dozens or hundreds of other companies."

Derivatives are traded privately, and their estimated notional value is huge: $531 trillion. Losses from derivatives helped bring down Wall Street powerhouse Lehman Bros., and led the government to spend nearly $123 billion so far bailing out the giant insurer AIG.

The bill barring most regulation of derivative trading was inserted into an 11,000-page budget measure that became law as the nation was focused on the disputed 2000 presidential election. It was sponsored by Republican Sens. Phil Gramm of Texas and Richard Lugar of Indiana — with support from Democrats, the Clinton administration and then-Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. Few opposed it.

Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who help negotiate the bill for Democrats, says he put aside his qualms because Wall Street and Greenspan were adamant that less regulation would help the stock market.

"All of the Wall Street crowd, all of the investment firms, the Morgan Stanleys, the Goldman Sachs … that steamroller just rolled over anything," he says. Wall Street promised to police itself "and Congress bought it."

Better regulation could have provided greater transparency and ensured that enough collateral was in place for derivatives to meet their obligations, says economist Susan Wachter of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "It's totally obvious in retrospect that this was not good public policy," she says.

But a decade ago, many saw derivatives as a way to smooth the gears of free-market capitalism. That's why the financial industry was alarmed in March 1998, when a little-known agency called the Commodity Futures Trading Commission sought to regulate derivatives.

Financiers erupted. They feared the plan would invalidate existing contracts, and they argued derivatives often were uniquely tailored hedges against risk that could not abide one-size-fits-all rules. Greenspan, then-Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt and then-Treasury secretary Robert Rubin said in a statement they had "grave concerns" about regulating such agreements.

A report by President Clinton's economic team recommended against regulation. At congressional hearings, Greenspan argued that sophisticated market players would check one another, and if derivatives were regulated here such investments would go overseas.

A bill barring derivatives from being regulated as futures contracts passed the House in October 2000, by a vote of 377-4.

But Gramm, chairman of the banking committee, was not satisfied. Gramm told USA TODAY at the time he wanted language making clear that banking products could not be regulated by the commodities agency. After the fall election, leaders of both parties cut a deal and in December 2000 inserted it in the budget bill.

"The work of this Congress will be seen as a watershed, where we turned away from the outmoded, Depression-era approach to financial regulation," Gramm said then.

The wall against regulation was a watershed in another way. Financial services employees and political action committees made $308.6 million in political donations in 2000, up from $175 million in the previous presidential election year, says the Center for Responsive Politics. Wall Street and the banking, insurance and real estate industries spent $3.2 billion on lobbying in the past decade, the center reports. AIG spent $73 million.

More than a quarter of the $3.9 million in campaign money Gramm raised from 1997 through 2002 came from the financial services sector, and nine of his top 10 donors, grouped by economic interest, were employees of financial companies that use or trade in derivatives, according to election records compiled by the center.

Gramm, who left office in 2003 and went to work for UBS, was a top economic adviser to GOP presidential nominee John McCain until he stepped down in July after saying the USA had become "a nation of whiners" about the economy.

Noting that he has always favored deregulation, Gramm scoffs at the idea he was influenced by campaign money. The derivatives provision didn't cause the credit collapse, he adds.

"The crisis was caused by government," Gramm says. He cites the Community Reinvestment Act, which he says "forced banks to make subprime (mortgage) loans" to people who couldn't afford them.

Democrats, including Harkin, and many economic analysts dispute that. As for what he learned, Harkin says, "Don't pay attention to Wall Street when it comes to issues like this."

2. Protecting Fannie, Freddie

In 2005, Congress rejected a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at curbing risky investments by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, thanks to resistance from mostly Democrats. It was the latest in a string of unsuccessful attempts to rein in the two agencies. In this case, Congress ignored Greenspan's warning about the financial risks Fannie and Freddie were taking on.

The agencies were designed to expand homeownership by injecting money into the home mortgage market and encouraging banks to lend more. They buy loans from banks and guarantee them, holding some in their portfolios and selling others as mortgage-backed securities.

With implicit government backing, Fannie and Freddie have been able to borrow money at below-market rates. In recent years, the companies borrowed to buy billions' worth of complex mortgage-backed securities. The investments earned big returns. Fannie and Freddie's stock soared. Their executives were paid tens of millions of dollars.

Republicans sought to reduce the size of the companies' portfolios, arguing they were too risky.

Then the housing bubble burst. Fannie and Freddie didn't cause the financial meltdown, but they fueled it by becoming one of the biggest purchasers of toxic mortgage products, says Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff.

"There was tremendous coddling of Fannie and Freddie in the face of a lot of evidence that they really weren't helping homeowners all that much," Rogoff says. "I think it was very, very clear what was coming, and that they were a huge, huge risk to the American financial system. … It really was criminal neglect."

Fannie and Freddie spent $175 million on lobbying in the last decade, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The companies' employees and PACs gave nearly $5 million in contributions since 1989, by the center's count.

Until they were taken over, Fannie had 13 lobbying firms on its payroll this year; Freddie had 33. Both packed their boards with politically connected people such as Democrat Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton aide who joined Freddie's board in 2000 before he became a congressman. Both hired well-connected lobbyists such as Rick Davis, now McCain's campaign manager.

In seeking to crack down on Fannie and Freddie, Republicans were encouraged by banks that didn't want government-subsidized competition. But there also was a chorus of warnings that the highly leveraged corporations could pose a risk to the economy.

In 2003 and 2004, both companies were wracked by accounting scandals that led to the ouster of top managers.

In 2005, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., sponsored legislation to shrink the agencies' portfolios. McCain later added his name as a co-sponsor. The bill passed the Senate Banking Committee, but every panel Democrat voted against it. That signaled that the bill wouldn't get the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate. Obama was not on the banking panel; there is no record of him doing anything on the bill.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., a senior member of the banking committee, is the largest recipient of political contributions from Fannie and Freddie employees and PACs, having received $165,400 since 1989, according to the center.

Dodd said he backed Fannie and Freddie because they encouraged homeownership. "I've never ever in my life been affected by a campaign contribution," he said in an interview. He noted that when he became banking committee chairman, he helped pass a bill restricting mortgage agencies' investment practices in 2007. By then, it was too late to stop the financial disaster.

In the House, Republicans and Democrats agreed on a different bill that passed easily. But the Bush administration opposed it, calling it weak. The effort failed.

The next year, Freddie Mac paid the largest election fine ever, $3.8 million, after regulators found it used corporate funds illegally to pay for fundraisers. From 2000 to 2003, Freddie Mac held 85 events that raised $1.7 million, mostly for Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee, regulators found.

Rep. Barney Frank, then the ranking Democrat on financial services and now the chairman, says he and his colleagues were not soft on Fannie and Freddie. "Yes, they lobbied strongly, but I was one of the most successful ones in challenging them."

Frank had no apologies. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., by contrast, offered a rare Washington mea culpa: "Like a lot of my Democratic colleagues, I was too slow to appreciate the recklessness of Fannie and Freddie," he said in a statement. "Frankly, I wish my Democratic colleagues would admit, when it comes to Fannie and Freddie, we were wrong."

Original Source:

تعليق عام

مسألة وقت

A Matter of Time

And Commitment

هذه المقال يكشف أن الجمهوريون والديمقراطيون على حد سواء ساهموا في خلق المشكلة.

ويكشف أن ملكية الحكومة للشركات والبنوك يفسد الأمور أكثر مما يصلحها.

ولكنه أيضاً يكشف أنه لا يمكن الاعتماد الكامل على قوى السوق في تنظيم نفسها بنفسها.

واضيف من عندي أن السبب في هذا يتعلق بالوقت أساساً
Long-Term vs. Short Term Interests

وبتضارب المصالح
Conflict of Interests
بين المديرين وبين الشركات التي يعملون فيها!

فلا شك لدي أن السوق كمنظومة متزنة، إذا تأكدنا من وجود آليات الاتزان وحيويتها، فهذه الآليات تعطي النظام القدرة على التصحيح الذاتي، لكن هذا التصحيح ليس ضرورياً أن يحدث بصورة سريعة، بل يمكن نتيجة لفساد البعض أن يحجب التقارير أو يتغاضى عن الضوابط من أجل تحقيق أرباح سريعة أو الحصول على بونص كبير، فتتراكم الأخطاء، وفي النهاية هؤلاء المديرون يحصلون على الملايين كحوافز على زيادة القروض، وبالتالي فهناك تضارب في المصالح بينهم وبين مصالح حملة الأسهم، أصحاب المال الحقيقيون.

فيتساهل المديرون في سياسات القروض حتى يحصلون على البوانص الكبيرة، وهم يعلمون أن المؤسسات قد تتعرض لمخاطر ضخمة من جراء تلك السياسات، لكنهم يعلمون أيضاً أن مثل تلك المشاكل سوف تأخذ أعواماً طويلة حتى تظهر على السطح، وفي ذلك الوقت يكونوا هم قد تركوا العمل وتقاعدوا ليستمتعوا بالملايين التي حصدوها كبونص.

وحتى حملة الأسهم من المضاربين، فهم قد يتغاضون عن مثل تلك السياسات الخرقاء، لأنهم يريدون الحصول على عائد رأسمالي سريع من خلال بيع الأسهم بعد أن ترتفع أسعارها بصورة مؤقتة، ولهذا أقول أن المشكلة هي في مسألة الالتزام الوقتي، فلا يوجد أي تمييز بين المستثمر الذي يضع أمواله في إحدى الشركات لأعوام طويلة، وآخر يضارب بتلك الأسهم ويبيعها ويشتريها بصورة يومية، وعدم وجود هذا التمييز قد يؤدي إلى سياسات تبدو ناجحة على المدى القصير ولكنها تؤدي للخراب على المدى الطويل لأنها تفتقد للتوازن.

هنا يأتي دور المنظم

يكون دوراً رقابياً في الأساس، حتى يتأكد أن الضوابط المتفق عليها مع حملة الأسهم بمختلف اهتماماتهم وتنوع مصالحهم على المدى القصير والطويل يتم تطبيقها بصورة صحيحة.

ووجود المراقب الحكومي مهم أيضاً نتيجة مشاكل تتعلق بمراقب الحسابات
Auditing Firms
من الشركات الخاصة، فتلك الشركات تحصل على أتعابها من المديرين بصورة أو بأخرى، وبالتالي فهل تعمل لصالح حملة الأسهم والمجتمع، أم تتستر على أخطاء الشركات والتلاعب في القوائم المالية والفساد الداخلي مثلما حدث مع "أرثر أندرسون" وإنرون منذ سنوات قليلة.

بالأمس فقط تفجرت قضية جديدة، وهو أن المؤسسات المالية التي حصلت على دعم حكومي فيدرالي لتعويمها وإنقاذها قدره 700 بليون دولار، أن 4 فقط من هذه المؤسسات على سبيل المثال خصصت مبالغ قدرها 61 بليون دولار حوافز ومكافآت ومرتبات لموظفيها !

والبعض تساءل، هل يستحق مديرو تلك المؤسسات هذه الحوافز الضخمة وفي هذا التوقيت؟

Archives 2003
Egyptian Pound: Float or Sink

الرسوم المسيئة

من أرشيف 2003

مجلة "معاً"

بمناسبة الأزمة الاقتصادية العالمية التي نمر بها الآن، تذكرت موقفاً مشابهاً تعرضنا له في مصر في يناير 2003 مع قرار تعويم الجنيه المصري.

وكنت في عام 2002 قد أسست مجلة لجمعية "شباب الأعمال" EJB تحت عنوان "معاً". وكنت أنا أحد مؤسسي الجمعية منذ عام 1993، وخلال أعوام 2000 - 2004 كنت عضواً بمجلس إدارة الجمعية ومقرراً للجنة الميديا. وفي الواقع بدأت المجلة كنشرة غير دورية أو Newsletter ولكننا في لجنة الميديا صممنا أن تكون المجلة على مستو عال من الحرفية الصحفية، فبذلنا مجهوداً كبيراً في الإعداد لها واستغرقنا عدة شهور في البحث عن اسم مناسب وتطوير صيغة صحفية مناسبة. وكانت هناك اسماء كثيرة مقترحة وعندما اقترحت عنوان "معاً" كان غير تقليدي بالمرة أن يأتي اسم مجلة أو صحيفة في صورة "حال" مع غياب الجملة أو الفعل، ولكن الزملاء أعجبوا بالاسم وبدأنا العمل بدون محررين محترفين تقريباً، وجاءت المادة كلها من مشاركات من أعضاء الجمعية.

وفي يناير 2003 ومع قرار تعويم الجنيه المصري الذي جاء متأخراً حوالي 8 سنوات من العند الحكومي، أصدرت الحكومة القرار ولكنها في نفس الوقت اصدرت تعليمات من نحن الترابيزة للبنوك بعدم بيع العملات الأجنبية للجمهور، فجاء هذا بمثابة قرار بتغريق الجنيه لا تعويمه، ومن هنا جاء العدد الجديد من مجلة معاً والمقال الافتتاحي تحت عنوان "الجنيه المصري: تعويم لا تغريق". وأعددنا غلافاً رائعاً للمجلة بريشة الفنان ياسر جعيصة يصور النظام في وضع الإبحار الذي تراه في الصورة، كما ساهم الفنان ياسر جعيصة والفنان اسامة أبو العلا بعدة رسوم كارتونية أخرى تعلق على هذا الموقف الاقتصادي بريشة ساخرة.

وكان تقديرنا أن غلاف هذا العدد سيأتي بمثابة "قنبلة" تجعل مجتمع الأعمال في مصر كلها يتحدث عن المجلة وعن الجمعية بصورة تؤكد دورها في متابعة القضايا الاقتصادية بصورة متحررة وجريئة، بما يدعم الاهتمام بالجمعية ويدعم تنمية العضوية بها.

وقبل إصدار العدد، رأيت من باب اللياقة أن نطلع مجلس الإدارة على الماكيت، وبالفعل بعثت بالماكيت مع المنسق الإعلامي للجمعية، وما أن رأى الصديق " ... ..." - وكان وقتها رئيس مجلس إدارة الجمعية - ماكيت الغلاف، ثارت ثائرته وأصر أنه إما هو وإما صدور هذا العدد بهذا الغلاف "المستفز" على حد تعبيره.

وأسقط في يدي، فلم يكن سهلاً على نفسي أن اقوم بتغيير الغلاف الرائع أو أن أقبل الرقابة على مادة صحفية قمت بالاشتراك في إعدادها، ولكنني بعد تفكير قصير أدركت أن رجال الأعمال سواء كانهوا شباباً أم كهولاً لا يمكن أن يقبلوا بالصدام مع النظام بهذه الطريقة، لأن في النهاية لهم مصالح لا يمكن أن يقبلوا المخاطرة بها. وصدرت المجلة بدون الغلاف، وفي الأعدلد التالية استمرت المضايقات "الأمنية" والتعليقات حول الأغلفة وما يجب أن يكتب وما يجب أن يحذف، ولكنني في الأعداد التالية استطعت أن أقنع بعض زملائي داخل مجلس الإدارة والجمعية بوجهة نظري وقناعتي، بأن وجود مجلة قوية ومستقلة ومتوازنة مهم للجمعية ويساعد على تنمية العضوية ويفيد أيضاً من هم في موقع صنع القرار الاقتصادي، عندما يستمعون للرأي الآخر، فجاءت العديد من الأعداد التالية بمقالات قوية مثل "البحث عن رؤية" الذي كان له صدى قوي وأعيد نشره في صحيفة المصري اليوم على صفحة كاملة، وكان من أوائل المقالات التي تتناول ضرورة التغيير الدستوري وتداول السلطة وتتناول مؤسسة الرئاسة بصورة مباشرة، حيث كان العرف وقتها هو نقد الوزراء ورؤساء الوزراء دون ذكر الرئيس من قريب ولا من بعيد، وكذلك كان من الممنوع استخدام كلمة "التغيير" في أي مقال، فجاء تلك المقال في يونيو 2004 يحمل عنواناً فرعياً "التغيير الآن"!

وفي كل الأحوال ورغم الشد والجذب، استمتعت برئاسة تحرير مجلة "معاً" إلى أن تركتها في عام 2006 بعد إصدار ما يقرب من 10 أعداد.

وفي الواقع تحولت جمعية شباب الأعمال للأسف في أغلبها إلى تابع للحزب الوطني، واصبحت الذراع الاقتصادية للجنة السياسات، وفي المقابل نال الكثير من أعضاء الجمعية الحظوة لدى الحكومة وعينوا في مراكز مهمة في الوزارات والبنوك الكبرى ومؤسسات التنمية الصناعية والتكنولوجية وتحديث الصناعة ومجالس إدارات شركات قطاع الأعمال وغيرها، كما حصل الكثيرون على المكافآت السخية من أراض بسعر التراب وامتيازات لإقامة المدن الصناعية Industrial Estates ومشروعات أخرى ببلايين الجنيهات بالأمر المباشر وإنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون على زمن البراءة في الجمعية التي بدأت بمجموعة من الشباب الذين كانوا يطمحون في الإصلاح، تسلل إليها المتسلقون والباحثون عن التربح من القرب من السلطة ليضخوا في عروقها فيروس الفساد المركز ويفتحوا الأعين المغمضة على ضرورة "استغلال السلطة".

على أي حال، اضع بين أيديكم هذه الرسومات التي رأى البعض أنها "مسيئة" إلى النظام ورموز النظام وأترك الحكم لكم عليها وعلى هذا المقال الذي أوحى بتلك الرسومات المسيئة، وأرجو أن تستغفر الله قبل وبعد قراءة المقال ومطالعة الرسوم المسيئة.

الجنيه المصري ...

تعـويم ... لا تغـريق!

أول درس في العوم هو الثقة. الثقة في النفس، والثقة في مدرب العوم، والثقة في رجل إغريقي توفي منذ آلاف السنين اسمه أرشميدس، وفي نظرية الطفو التي اكتشفها، والثقة في أن الماء سمع عن تلك النظرية ويوافق على تنفيذها حتى في أوقات العطلات الرسمية، وهي الأوقات التي عادة ما نعوم فيها. وقبل كل شيء، لابد من رسوخ الثقة في الله سبحانه وتعالى، وفي أن حوض السباحة خال من أسماك القرش ماركة الفك المفترس، لعن الله ذلك الفيلم الذي لا زال يرعبني شخصياً فور أن يمسني الماء، بما في ذلك ماء البانيو أو عندما أشرب بعد تناول حبوب دواء الضغط، الذي تحالف مع الدولار في ارتفاعه، ونتج عنه التهاب في الجيوب الخلفية الخاصة بالمحفظة، والتي تعاني أساساً من الأنيميا الحادة.

لقد سعدنا جميعاً بقرار الحكومة لتحرير أسعار صرف العملات الأجنبية، الشهيرة بالصعبة سابقاً، والمعروفة بالخفية حالياً، لأنها لا تظهر للناس العاديين، ويلزم لتحضيرها جلب كميات كبيرة من الجنيه المصري، والتوسل لشيوخ المنسر من أباطرة السوق السوداء من بختنا. ونظراً لأن ذلك القرار طال انتظاره، فقد هللنا له جميعاً، لأن تحرير سعر الدولار يضمن اختفاء السوق السوداء، ويزيد من تنافسية المنتجات المصرية محلياً وعالمياً، ويساعد على تحقيق التوازن بين الصادرات والواردات.

لقد عانى الاقتصاد من اختلال في سعر الصرف، خلال السنوات الأربعة الماضية، أدى لاستنزاف جزء كبير من احتياطي البنك المركزي من الدولار، وجاء استنزاف الاحتياطي النقدي أساساً لتمويل متطلبات الاستيراد، مما شكل تدعيماً من الحكومة للاستيراد - أي تدعيماً لصادرات الدول الأخرى – طبعاً لأننا أولاد عز وجميعاً من بيوت كرم ونحب نجامل الغرباء.

وفي الفترة من 1998 إلى 2002، عندما بدأ البنك المركزي يشعر أن استـنـزاف احتياطي النقد الأجنبي قد أصبح اتجاهاً ثابتاً، وأن ما يحدث ليس مجرد اهتزازات في السوق صعوداً وهبوطاً، بدأ "يقبض يده" ويتباطأ في مد البنوك والأسواق باحتياجاتها من العملات الأجنبية، مما أدى لنقص خطير في العملة الأجنبية، ومع سياسة "التسعيرة الجبرية" لسعر الصرف، فقد عادت السوق السوداء لتطل علينا برأسها القبيح ذي القرون، ونظراً لإغلاق معظم شركات الصرافة، فقد بدأ يظهر سوق العملة البيتي، "ولابد أن تتذوق قطعة من صينية المكرونة بشاميل صنع أيدي المدام ولا ليك علي حلفان" قبل أن تحصل على العشرة آلاف دولار المطلوبة لزوم استيراد قطع الغيار أو مستلزمات الإنتاج. يعني خراب بيوت ووجع بطن.

ولذلك، هللنا جميعاً عندما سمعنا بأخبار تحرير أسعار الصرف، وهو ما سمي بتعويم الجنيه. ولكن لأن قليل البخت يبتلى بالعظم في الكرشة، فقد رمت الحكومة الجنيه بنية تعويمه، ثم يبدو أنها غيرت رأيها، ربما لأن الدنيا شتاء والمياه ساقعة جداً مثل الدش البارد الذي نزل على رءوسنا جميعاً، وربما لأن الحكومة نفسها لا تعرف العوم، أو لا تثق في أن الماء قد سمع عن قانون الطفو الذي أطلقه عم أرشميدس.

وبالمناسبة، فإن ثاني درس في العوم هو ضرب الماء بهدوء وتناسق والابتعاد عن التضبيش. فالتضبيش يرهق العضلات ويصيب المضبشاتي بكرشة نفس، تنتهي به إلى التعب والاستسلام فالغرق والعياذ بالله.

ورغم قرار التعويم، فقد ظل الدولار من العملات الخفية مثل الأشباح، ويا خفي الألطاف نجنا مما نخاف. واتضح أن موضوع التعويم "بكش" وأن السوق السوداء قد أصبحت مثل أمنا الغولة لا ترحم أحداً، فزاد سعر الدولار من 5 جنيه لما يقرب الـ 7 جنيهات، مما يعني أن صينية المكرونة سوف تكون محشوة باللحمة المفرومة. أما اليورو، فحدث ولا حرج، فقد أصبحت عملية استحضاره تتطلب البخور الهندي والعنبر مع خصلة شعر شقراء، أوروبية المنشأ.

وهنا لابد من وقفة ... فالدولار منذ شهر كان سعره في السوق السوداء 5 جنيهات وربع، ووجوده في السوق السوداء بهذا السعر، يعني أن الناس كانوا يبيعونه ويشترونه بنفس هذا السعر ولمدد طويلة وبمبالغ كبيرة ... إذن ذلك السعر كان سعراً واقعياً ... لماذا الآن يرتفع الدولار إلى 7 جنيهات في شهر واحد؟

إنها الثقة. أو بالأصح ... انعدامها. فعندما نسمع عن التعويم، ثم لا نستطيع الحصول على العملات اللازمة للاستيراد، فتأثير ذلك خطير. إن كلمة "تعويم" لها مدلولات كثيرة جدية وخطيرة الأثر، ولا يمكن إطلاقها بسهولة، وعندما تعلنها الحكومة ثم لا تدعمها بقوة، هنا تهتز الثقة في تلك الكلمة وفي أي كلام آخر. هنا أقول أن فرق انعدام الثقة قد أصبح 2 جنيهاً لكل دولار.

ومع الشرخ في الثقة، انطلق الناس يكتنزون الدولار، وأصابت حمى الدولار المقاولين، والمرتبطين بعقود طويلة الأجل، والذين يعانون من مديونيات بالعملات الأجنبية، والمستوردين، بل والمدخرين وغير المدخرين.

ما هذا السلوك الهمجي؟

هل مصر محل خردوات إذا أصابه الركود سوف نغلقه ونحصل على الجدك أو "خلو رجل"؟ ماذا يفيدنا اكتناز الدولار إذا انهار اقتصادنا والعياذ بالله تحت وطأة هذه التصرفات الغوغائية؟ ألا تكفينا البرطعة في الشوارع وكسر كل قوانين وإشارات المرور، سواء الضوئية أو الصوتية، أو الجسدية أو الخرسانية؟

هل هان علينا مستقبل أولادنا؟ أو بالبلدي، هل "شفنا شوفة" أخرى؟ هل ننوي جميعاً الهجرة؟ وإلى أين يا حسرة؟ المصريون والعرب والمسلمون يعانون الأمرين في كافة دول المهجر، من أخذ بصمات أصابع الأيدي وقريباً الأقدام، إلى خلع الأحذية والتفتيش الذاتي في المطارات بدون سبب. يعني لابد أن نعرف أننا سوف نعيش هنا وسنموت هنا أيضاً.

إذا ضاق الإنسان بمسكنه، أو لم تعجبه شقته، فإنه ينتقل لسكن آخر أي "يعزل". هل أنتوينا أن "نعزل"؟ هل نخطط لترك مصر لآخرين يأتون ليعمروها ويستخرجوا من طينها الذهب الذي عجزنا عن رؤيته بسبب ضعف النظر المزمن الذي أصابنا، تحت تأثير الغشاوات والضلالات التي نتجت عن الأنانية وعدم وضوح الرؤية وغلوشة الصورة؟ الصورة الكبيرة التي قوامها أن المصلحة العامة هي أساس المصلحة الخاصة؟

هل نتكالب على الدولار ونترك الجنيه يغرق؟ ماذا يحدث لنا وأي شياطين مستنا وسكنت أرواحنا؟

هل نسينا ما هو الجنيه؟

الجنيه المصري؟ المصري.

الجنيه المصري لمن نسى، هو وعاء لقيمتنا، فإن بخسناه ضألت قيمتنا جميعاً. وهذا ليس كلاماً عاطفياً. الجنيه يا سادة هو وعاء تقويم إنتاجنا، أي حساب القيمة التي يضيفها كل منا في عمله وللاقتصاد الوطني. الجنيه "المصري" ليس مجرد ورقة بنية مرسوم عليها جوامع أو نقوش فرعونية.

الجنيه المصري رغم العرق والقذارة وبقع الزيت، هو رمز لقيمتنا الاقتصادية، فإذا هانت علينا أنفسنا، فلنهجره ونتكالب على الدولار، ومن لا يستح فليفعل ما يشاء.

نعم، نحن مع صرف الجنيه بسعر واقعي، يساعد منتجاتنا الوطنية على المنافسة محلياً وعالمياً. نحن مع وصول الدولار لسعر يضمن اتزان العرض والطلب بين الموارد والاستخدامات. نعم، إن ارتفاع سعر الدولار وارتفاع أسعار بعض السلع المستوردة يضمن أن تقوم آليات السوق بالحد من الاستيراد وتشجيع التصنيع المحلي. ليس من المنطقي أن نستورد الفول المدمس من حدائق كالدونيا، ونشتريه بسعر أقل من الفول المدمس المصري. أولاً هذا معناه أن هناك خطأ ما في عوامل تكلفة التصنيع في مصر بالمقارنة بالدول الأخرى. قد تكون المشكلة في سعر العملة، أو في البيروقراطية، أو المصاريف الخفية، أو غيرها. ولكن هناك شيء خطأ. ببساطة لأن الفول المدمس اختراع مصري، ولأن حباته ضخمة الحجم وسعر شحنه عال، ويخضع للجمارك. فكيف يمكن أن يباع بسعر أقل من أو يقارب مثيله المصري؟

ماذا نفعل الآن؟

علينا جميعاً أن نعود لرشدنا وبسرعة.

دعونا نعقد اتفاقاً بين رجال الأعمال والمواطنين والحكومة والوطن. علينا جميعاً كمصدرين ومستوردين أن نقصر تعاملنا على القنوات الشرعية، علينا أن نقول "لا" للسوق السوداء، أن نبيع حصيلتنا الدولارية في البنوك ونصر على فتح اعتماداتنا من البنوك أيضاً.

وعلينا كمواطنين أن نبتعد عن الارتباك والفزع واكتناز الدولار.

وعلى البنك المركزي أن يقرر، إما الاستمرار في التعويم، وبالتالي الوقوف خلف القرار بقوة وتشجيع الوصول لاتزان بين العرض والطلب عند أسعار صرف واقعية ومعقولة، أو التراجع عنه بصراحة ووضوح وهو ما لا نتمناه.

ومرة أخرى نذكر الجميع، من يريد العوم فعليه أن يثق بالماء.

وائل نوارة

فبراير 2003

Alan Greenspan Admits
He Made a Mistake by Not Intervening

Alan Greenspan

Congressional Confessions!

(CNN) -- The former head of the U.S. Federal Reserve admitted he made a mistake during his time as chair by presuming that lenders were more capable than regulators of protecting their finances, adding he was "shocked" when the system "broke down."He said that the U.S. is "in the midst of a credit tsunami," -- but that it will emerge from the credit crisis with a "far sounder financial system."

"I still do not understand exactly how it happened," he said.

Alan Greenspan, who chaired the reserve from 1987 through 2006, also added Thursday that whatever regulatory changes are made to respond to the crisis, "they will pale in comparison to the change already evident in today's markets."

Greenspan, who some analysts say did not do enough to control financial institutions during his two-decade tenure, made his comments in prepared testimony to the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee.

Fears of recession continued to cause turbulent swings in stock markets worldwide Thursday.

The U.S. Dow Jones industrial average gained around 172 points to finish at 8,691, erasing a loss of as much as 275 points.

And he backed the $700 billion Wall Street bailout approved by Congress, which allows the U.S. government to buy bad mortgage investments from finance firms or buy a stake in troubled companies.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares ended the day up 1.16 percent, while Germany's DAX 30 was down 1.12 percent and France's CAC 40 up 0.38 percent. Watch how the markets progress

The economic turmoil will be the focus of the two-day, 43-nation Asia-Europe Meeting, which opens Friday in Beijing, according to European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking at the EU's Beijing office Thursday.

Leaders hope this week's summit in China will help bring agreement on a response to the crisis ahead of a November 15 meeting hosted by U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington.

"We need a coordinated global response to reform the global financial system. We are living in unprecedented times and we need unprecedented levels of global coordination," The Associated Press reported Barroso as saying. "It's very simple. We swim together or we sink together."

Barroso outlined no specific proposals but said a solution needed to be based on transparency, responsibility, cross-border supervision and global governance. He also said the world's financial system needed "major reform." Do we really need to rebuild, asks Charles Hodson

The current financial turmoil was sparked by the U.S. housing market collapse and a credit freeze in the United States and around the globe that is showing signs of affecting economic growth.

In Tokyo Thursday, the Nikkei declined 2.5 percent by late afternoon while South Korea's KOSPI closed down 5 percent. The All Ordinaries index in Australia declined 4.4 percent, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 3.5 percent.

The Asian indexes declined after the Dow lost 514 points, or 5.7 percent, on Wednesday. Watch how Asian markets fall »

Amid the wild swings in both stocks and commodities over the last few weeks, "fundamentals matter very little right now" in the U.S. market, said Ned Riley, chief investment strategist at Riley Asset Management.

He said that most of what is happening is being driven by traders with a very short-term perspective.

On the upside, lending rates continue to improve, as the efforts of world governments to stabilize financial markets started to kick in. But any relief about the improvement in the credit market has been overshadowed by recession fears.

"Some of these programs are starting to work, but it's going to take a while for borrowing to reach the consumer," he said.

The declines on these markets comes after the Dow Jones industrial average lost 514 points, or 5.7 percent, on Wednesday -- the Dow's seventh worst ever point loss.

"The credit crunch seems to be behind us, and we are shifting focus to corporate earnings and economic conditions, and clearly both are deteriorating," Alex Tang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi in Hong Kong, told The Associated Press.

Main Street bank Wachovia -- which is due to merge with Wells Fargo -- reported a heavier-than-expected third quarter loss of $23.9 billion.

دعها تعمل ... أم دعها تغـرق؟

الرئيس السابق للخزانة الفيدرالية الأمريكية ينتقل من مقعد الأستاذ في الكونجرس الأمريكي ليتلقى الاتهامات بأنه أساء إدارة الاقتصاد عندما لم يستجب للتقارير التي نصحت بالتدخل لترشيد سياسات الإقراض.

آلان جرين سبان الذي جلس على مقعد رئاسة الخزانة الفيدرالية الأمريكية لمدة 19 عاماً يجلس أمام الكونجرس ليتلقى اللوم والاتهامات بعد أن كان يعد بمثابة أستاذ الاقتصاد الذي طالما حاضر الكونجرس وجلس أعضاؤه أمامه في مقاعد التلاميذ لسنوات طويلة. لقد اتهمه الأعضاء بأنه لم يقم بواجبه بالتدخل بصورة مبكرة أثناء ولايته ليمنع البنوك من التصرف طبقاً لسياسات ائتمان خرقاء.

واعترف ألان جرين سبان بأنه كان مخطئاً:

لقد ارتكبت خطأ عندما افترضت أن المصلحة الذاتية للمؤسسات والبنوك على الخصوص يمكن أن تجعل هذه المؤسسات تتصرف بشكل رشيد كفيل بحماية مصالح حملة الأسهم ... وما زلت لا أفهم أسباب الأزمة بصورة كاملة.

إن الافتراض الذي يتبناه الاناركيون (الفوضويون) والليبرتاريون المتطرفون نحو اليمين


بأنه على الحكومة تقليص القوانين والأجهزة التنظيمية

Regulatory Bodies

لأقصى درجة أثبت فشله تماماً مثل الجانب المتطرف على الناحية الأخرى من التطرف نحو اليسار والذي يفترض أنه على الدولة أن تتملك وسائل الإنتاج، بما يؤكد بصورة عملية أن السياسات المتوازنة الوسطية

Centrist Economic Policies

وسياسات الطريق الثالث الاقتصادية

Third Way Policies

التي توازن بين السوق الحر وتدخل الدولة من خلال أجهزة التنظيم وتبني السياسات التحفيزية لقيادة الاقتصاد نحو نقاط الاتزان الطبيعية بعيداً عن الوقوع في الأزمات العنيفة، العميقة والطويلة التي تنتج من التسيب المفرط و أن فكرة "دعها تعمل" إن لم تتوازن معها سياسات اقتصادية رشيدة إنما تتحول إلى "دعها تخرب"، أو دعها تغرق.

الاثنين، أكتوبر 20، 2008

Joe the Plumber Again

Setting the Record Straight

for Joe the Plumber

I received an email from my wife (yes, we live in the same house, but I am away from home traveling. Actually sometimes we do communicate in email while being in the same house :) with more updated research on Joe the Plumber. It appears that I have been misled by a previous source. Please accept my apologies that my previous posts about Joe contained wrong information. I had relied on the source quoted which may have had wrong information.

Anyway, here are the updated "facts", this time according to updated source of information (WIKI). I will just publish the letter as it is.

An Update on Joe the Plumber


Just to get things straight

Joe the plummer's name is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher

So his name is Joe

He works for a plumming company but does not have a license

According to WIKI


Obama was talking to Joe (he was out playing football with his son) and joe told him that he wants to buy the plumming business he works in for 250000 to 270000 dollars and that Obama's new tax would increase his taxation.

I think personally that he was McCain's bait to Obama

This part is really funny:

"Wurzelbacher spoke to Katie Couric of CBS Evening News on October 15, shortly after the conclusion of the final debate. Asked whether Obama's proposed $250,000 tax threshold would affect him, Wurzelbacher replied: "Not right now at presently, but, you know, question, so he's going to do that now for people who make $250,000 a year. When's he going to decide that $100,000 is too much, you know? I mean, you're on a slippery slope here. You vote on somebody who decides that $250,000 and you're rich? And $100,000 and you're rich? I mean, where does it end?"

Also it turns out that the company he works in is a small company and does not make 250,000 in revenues - it makes 100,000

He is a registered republican since 1992 - proving my point that he was placed there by Mccaine

So the story is a bit different i think than you say in the note - although just as juicy


It appears that Joe does not pay his taxes.


الجمعة، أكتوبر 17، 2008

Network of Arab Liberals (NAL) Meets in Tunis

دور المرأة في الأحزاب

السياسية في العالم العربي

تعقد شبكة الليبراليين مؤتمراً وورشة عمل عن دور المرأة في الأحزاب السياسية في العالم العربي، برعاية مؤسسة فريدريش ناومان للحرية. و تناقش الورشة الإطار الدستوري والقانوني في الدول العربية والضمانات التي يقدمها الدستور لدعم المساواة بين المرأة و الرجل، وما هي الضمانات الإضافية المطلوبة لتحسين أوضاع المرأة في كافة المجالات، مع التركيز على المجال السياسي. ويستعرض المشاركون الإطار القانوني المنظم لدور المرأة في المجتمع وهل هناك قوانين تمييزية أم لا، ما هو موقف الدول العربية من اتفاقية الامم المتحدة لإزالة كافة أشكال التمييز ضد المرأة ( السيداو)، والآليات المختلفة التي تتبعها بعض البلدان العربية لدعم المشاركة السياسية للمرأة مثل نظام تخصيص المقاعد في المجالس النيابية (الكوتا).

كما يستعرض المشاركون الواقع السياسي للمرأة، ومدى مشاركة النساء في البرلمانات العربية، ووصولها لرئاسة أحزاب عربية، أو توليها مناصب تنفيذية (وزيرات) في دولتكم، وتمحيص الممارسات التمييزية الحكومية لعمل المرأة السياسي في بعض الدول، وما هو رد فعل الأحزاب والمنتديات المشاركة تجاه مثل تلك الممارسات التمييزية، والاستراتيجيات التي تتبناها تلك الأحزاب لتقوية دور المرأة في دولتكم، ابرز إسهامات الأحزاب المشاركة في دعم المرأة في بلدكم.

ويشارك في المؤتمر ممثلون عن الأحزاب والمنتديات والفعاليات العربية من لبنان، الأردن، فلسطين، مصر، تونس، المغرب، الجزائر.

ويعقد المكتب التنفيذي للشبكة اجتماعاً على هامش المؤتمر يناقش فيه مجموعة من القضايا التنظيمية وبرمجة أنشطة الشبكة في الفترة القادمة.

Joe the Plumber

جو السباك

طلع مش سباك

وبيكسب ربع مليون دولار في السنة!

أوباما اتهم ماكين بتضليل الناخبين الأمريكيين عندما أوحى أنه (ماكين) يدافع عن جو السباك الغلبان الذي سوف يقع ضحية لسياسات أوباما الضريبية المتعسفة.

جو السباك بطل المناظرة الذي جاء ذكره 13 مرة في المناظرة طلع أصلاً مش سباك ولا يحزنون. طلع كمان اسمه سام. وطلع إنه بيكسب 250 ألف دولار في السنة - يعني حوالي مليون و400 ألف جنيه مصري في السنة.

السياسة الضريبية لأوباما تجعل من يكسبون أكثر من 250 ألف دولار في السنة يخضعون لضريبة 39% بدلاً من المعدل الحالي وهو 36%. ومن الجدير بالذكر أن 5% فقط من دافعي الضرائب يدخلون في هذه الشريحة.

وكان أوباما قد انتقد سياسة التنقيط التي تخفض الضرائب عن المليونيرات والبليونيرات على أمل أن هذا الفائض سوف يملئ الصحن فينقط الصحن بالرخاء على الغلابة والمساكين وقال أن الشعب الأمريكي لم يعد بقادر على تحمل هذه النظرية.

Joe the Plumber is not a Plumber
, his Name is Sam
and he makes $250K a Year

Joe the Plumber

is not Really a Plumber

And He Makes $250,000 a Year !

Get this. Joe the Plumber makes a quarter million dollars a year. He is not actually a licensed plumber. His name is not even Joe!

According to JOHN SEEWER, an Associated Press Writer , Obama accused McCain of misleading the American People over "Joe the Plumber" story. On Thursday in New Hampshire, Obama said McCain was misleading voters by proposing tax plans that favor the rich while criticizing an Obama tax plan that would raise taxes only on people making more than $250,000 a year, just 5 percent of all taxpayers.

"He's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he's fighting for," Obama said. "How many plumbers you know that are making a quarter-million dollars a year?"

According to Obama's tax proposal, those earning more than $250,000 per year will pay 39% taxes instead of currently paying 36%.

Obama was recently quoted criticizing the "trickle down" tax policies saying that the American people "can't afford four more years of the economic theory that says that we should be giving more and more to millionaires and billionaires hoping that prosperity will trickle down everyone else."

الخميس، أكتوبر 16، 2008

Obama Wins Final Presidential Debate

Poll: Debate Watchers Say Obama Wins

Final Presidential Debate

HEMPSTEAD, New York (CNN) -- A majority of debate watchers think Sen. Barack Obama won the third and final presidential debate, according to a national poll conducted right afterward.

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain debate face to face Wednesday (15 Oct 2008) night.

Fifty-eight percent of debate watchers questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll said Democratic candidate Obama did the best job in the debate, with 31 percent saying Republican Sen. John McCain performed best.

The poll also suggests that debate watchers' favorable opinion of Obama rose slightly during the debate, from 63 percent at the start to 66 percent at the end. The poll indicates that McCain's favorables dropped slightly, from 51 percent to 49 percent.

The economy was the dominant issue of the debate, and 59 percent of debate watchers polled said Obama would do a better job handling the economy, 24 points ahead of McCain.
During the debate, McCain attacked Obama's stance on taxes, accusing Obama of seeking tax increases that would "spread the wealth around." But by 15 points, 56 percent to 41 percent, debate watchers polled said Obama would do a better job on taxes. By a 2-1 margin, 62 percent to 31 percent, debate watchers said Obama would do a better job on health care.

Sixty-six percent of debate watchers said Obama more clearly expressed his views, with 25 percent saying McCain was more clear about his views.

By 23 points, those polled said Obama was the stronger leader during the debate. By 48 points, they said Obama was more likeable.


McCain advisers said before the debate that McCain needed to win this debate. He did not. Obama went into the debate ahead in the presidential Race and came out more so. Obama collected points he did not even need.

CNN Poll showed that for those who watched the debate, Obama in fact enhanced his winning advantage.

الأربعاء، أكتوبر 15، 2008

Done with the Trickle Down Illusions

Senator McCain’s campaign announced “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” Well Senator McCain may be worried about losing an election, but I’m worried about Americans who are losing their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings. They can’t afford four more years of the economic theory that says we should give more and more to millionaires and billionaires and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. We’ve seen where that’s led us and we’re not going back. It’s time to turn the page.

Barack Obama Economy Speech

Toledo, Ohio October 13

We meet at a moment of great uncertainty for America. The economic crisis we face is the worst since the Great Depression. Markets across the globe have become increasingly unstable, and millions of Americans will open up their 401(k) statements this week and see that so much of their hard-earned savings have disappeared.

The credit crisis has left businesses large and small unable to get loans, which means they can’t buy new equipment, or hire new workers, or even make payroll for the workers they have. You’ve got auto plants right here in Ohio that have been around for decades closing their doors and laying off workers who’ve never known another job in their entire life.

760,000 workers have lost their jobs this year. Unemployment here in Ohio is up 85% over the last eight years, which is the highest it’s been in sixteen years. You’ve lost one of every four manufacturing jobs, the typical Ohio family has seen their income fall $2,500, and it’s getting harder and harder to make the mortgage, or fill up your gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month. At this rate, the question isn’t just “are you better off than you were four years ago?”, it’s “are you better off than you were four weeks ago?”

I know these are difficult times. I know folks are worried. But I also know this – we can steer ourselves out of this crisis. Because we are the United States of America. We are the country that has faced down war and depression; great challenges and great threats. And at each and every moment, we have risen to meet these challenges – not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans.

We still have the most talented, most productive workers of any country on Earth. We’re still home to innovation and technology, colleges and universities that are the envy of the world. Some of the biggest ideas in history have come from our small businesses and our research facilities. It won’t be easy, but there’s no reason we can’t make this century another American century.

But it will take a new direction. It will take new leadership in Washington. It will take a real change in the policies and politics of the last eight years. And that’s why I’m running for President of the United States of America.

My opponent has made his choice. Last week, Senator McCain’s campaign announced that they were going to “turn the page” on the discussion about our economy so they can spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead. His campaign actually said, and I quote, “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” Well Senator McCain may be worried about losing an election, but I’m worried about Americans who are losing their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings. They can’t afford four more years of the economic theory that says we should give more and more to millionaires and billionaires and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. We’ve seen where that’s led us and we’re not going back. It’s time to turn the page.

Over the course of this campaign, I’ve laid out a set of policies that will grow our middle-class and strengthen our economy in the long-term. I’ll reform our tax code so that 95% of workers and their families get a tax cut, and eliminate income taxes for seniors making under $50,000. I’ll bring down the cost of health care for families and businesses by investing in preventative care, new technology, and giving every American the chance to get the same kind of health insurance that members of Congress give themselves. We’ll ensure every child can compete in the global economy by recruiting an army of new teachers and making college affordable for anyone who wants to go. We’ll create five million new, high-wage jobs by investing in the renewable sources of energy that will eliminate the oil we currently import from the Middle East in ten years, and we’ll create two million jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads, schools, and bridges.

But that’s a long-term strategy for growth. Right now, we face an immediate economic emergency that requires urgent action. We can’t wait to help workers and families and communities who are struggling right now – who don’t know if their job or their retirement will be there tomorrow; who don’t know if next week’s paycheck will cover this month’s bills. We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle-class and we need to do it now. Today I’m proposing a number of steps that we should take immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities, and help struggling homeowners. It’s a plan that begins with one word that’s on everyone’s mind, and it’s spelled J-O-B-S.

We’ve already lost three-quarters of a million jobs this year, and some experts say that unemployment may rise to 8% by the end of next year. We can’t wait until then to start creating new jobs. That’s why I’m proposing to give our businesses a new American jobs tax credit for each new employee they hire here in the United States over the next two years.

To fuel the real engine of job creation in this country, I’ve also proposed eliminating all capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses and start-up companies, and I’ve proposed an additional tax incentive through next year to encourage new small business investment. It is time to protect the jobs we have and to create the jobs of tomorrow by unlocking the drive, and ingenuity, and innovation of the American people. And we should fast track the loan guarantees we passed for our auto industry and provide more as needed so that they can build the energy-efficient cars America needs to end our dependence on foreign oil.

We will also save one million jobs by creating a Jobs and Growth Fund that will provide money to states and local communities so that they can move forward with projects to rebuild and repair our roads, our bridges, and our schools. A lot of these projects and these jobs are at risk right now because of budget shortfalls, but this fund will make sure they continue.

The second part of my rescue plan is to provide immediate relief to families who are watching their paycheck shrink and their jobs and life savings disappear. I’ve already proposed a middle-class tax cut for 95% of workers and their families, but today I’m calling on Congress to pass a plan so that the IRS will mail out the first round of those tax cuts as soon as possible. We should also extend and expand unemployment benefits to those Americans who have lost their jobs and are having a harder time finding new ones in this weak economy. And we should stop making them pay taxes on those unemployment insurance benefits as well.

At a time when the ups and downs of the stock market have rarely been so unpredictable and dramatic, we also need to give families and retirees more flexibility and security when it comes to their retirement savings.

I welcome Senator McCain’s proposal to waive the rules that currently force our seniors to withdraw from their 401(k)s even when the market is bad. I think that’s a good idea, but I think we need to do even more. Since so many Americans will be struggling to pay the bills over the next year, I propose that we allow every family to withdraw up to 15% from their IRA or 401(k) – up to a maximum of $10,000 – without any fine or penalty throughout 2009. This will help families get through this crisis without being forced to make painful choices like selling their homes or not sending their kids to college.

The third part of my rescue plan is to provide relief for homeowners who are watching their home values decline while their property taxes go up. Earlier this year I pushed for legislation that would help homeowners stay in their homes by working to modify their mortgages. When Secretary Paulson proposed his original financial rescue plan it included nothing for homeowners. When Senator McCain was silent on the issue, I insisted that it include protections for homeowners. Now the Treasury must use the authority its been granted and move aggressively to help people avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. We don’t need a new law or a new $300 billion giveaway to banks like Senator McCain has proposed, we just need to act quickly and decisively.

I’ve already proposed a mortgage tax credit for struggling homeowners worth 10% of the interest you pay on your mortgage and we should move quickly to pass it. We should also change the unfair bankruptcy laws that allow judges to write down your mortgage if you own six or seven homes, but not if you have only one. And for all those cities and small towns that are facing a choice between cutting services like health care and education or raising property taxes, we will provide the funding to prevent those tax hikes from happening. We cannot allow homeowners and small towns to suffer because of the mess made by Wall Street and Washington.

For those Americans in danger of losing their homes, today I’m also proposing a three-month moratorium on foreclosures. If you are a bank or lender that is getting money from the rescue plan that passed Congress, and your customers are making a good-faith effort to make their mortgage payments and re-negotiate their mortgages, you will not be able to foreclose on their home for three months. We need to give people the breathing room they need to get back on their feet.

Finally, this crisis has taught us that we cannot have a sound economy with a dysfunctional financial system. We passed a financial rescue plan that has the promise to help stabilize the financial system, but only if we act quickly, effectively and aggressively. The Treasury Department must move quickly with their plan to put more money into struggling banks so they have enough to lend, and they should do it in a way that protects taxpayers instead of enriching CEOs. There was a report yesterday that some financial institutions participating in this rescue plan are still trying to avoid restraints on CEO pay. That’s not just wrong, it’s an outrage to every American whose tax dollars have been put at risk. No major investor would ever make an investment if they didn’t think the corporation was being prudent and responsible, and we shouldn’t expect taxpayers to think any differently. We should also be prepared to extend broader guarantees if it becomes necessary to stabilize our financial system.

I also believe that Treasury should not limit itself to purchasing mortgage-backed securities – it should help unfreeze markets for individual mortgages, student loans, car loans, and credit card loans.. And I think we need to do even more to make loans available in two very important areas of our economy: small businesses and communities.

On Friday, I proposed Small Business Rescue Plan that would create an emergency lending fund to lend money directly to small businesses that need cash for their payroll or to buy inventory. It’s what we did after 9/11, and it allowed us to get low-cost loans out to tens of thousands of small businesses. We’ll also make it easier for private lenders to make small business loans by expanding the Small Business Administration’s loan guarantee program. By temporarily eliminating fees for borrowers and lenders, we can unlock the credit that small firms need to pay their workers and keep their doors open. And today, I’m also proposing that we maintain the ability of states and local communities that are struggling to maintain basic services without raising taxes to continue to get the credit they need.

Congress should pass this emergency rescue plan as soon as possible. If Washington can move quickly to pass a rescue plan for our financial system, there’s no reason we can’t move just as quickly to pass a rescue plan for our middle-class that will create jobs, provide relief, and help homeowners. And if Congress does not act in the coming months, it will be one of the first things I do as President of the United States. Because we can’t wait any longer to start creating new jobs; to help struggling communities and homeowners, and to provide real and immediate relief to families who are worried not only about this month’s bills, but their entire life savings. This plan will help ease those anxieties, and along with the other economic policies I’ve proposed, it will begin to create new jobs, grow family incomes, and put us back on the path to prosperity.
I won’t pretend this will be easy or come without cost. We’ll have to set priorities as never before, and stick to them. That means pursuing investments in areas such as energy, education and health care that bear directly on our economic future, while deferring other things we can afford to do without. It means scouring the federal budget, line-by-line, ending programs that we don’t need and making the ones we do work more efficiently and cost less.

It also means promoting a new ethic of responsibility. Part of the reason this crisis occurred is that everyone was living beyond their means – from Wall Street to Washington to even some on Main Street. CEOs got greedy. Politicians spent money they didn’t have. Lenders tricked people into buying home they couldn’t afford and some folks knew they couldn’t afford them and bought them anyway.

We’ve lived through an era of easy money, in which we were allowed and even encouraged to spend without limits; to borrow instead of save.

Now, I know that in an age of declining wages and skyrocketing costs, for many folks this was not a choice but a necessity. People have been forced to turn to credit cards and home equity loans to keep up, just like our government has borrowed from China and other creditors to help pay its bills.

But we now know how dangerous that can be. Once we get past the present emergency, which requires immediate new investments, we have to break that cycle of debt. Our long-term future requires that we do what’s necessary to scale down our deficits, grow wages and encourage personal savings again.

It’s a serious challenge. But we can do it if we act now, and if we act as one nation. We can bring a new era of responsibility and accountability to Wall Street and to Washington. We can put in place common-sense regulations to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again. We can make investments in the technology and innovation that will restore prosperity and lead to new jobs and a new economy for the 21st century. We can restore a sense of fairness and balance that will give ever American a fair shot at the American dream. And above all, we can restore confidence – confidence in America, confidence in our economy, and confidence in ourselves.
This country and the dream it represents are being tested in a way that we haven’t seen in nearly a century. And future generations will judge ours by how we respond to this test. Will they say that this was a time when America lost its way and its purpose? When we allowed our own petty differences and broken politics to plunge this country into a dark and painful recession?

Or will they say that this was another one of those moments when America overcame? When we battled back from adversity by recognizing that common stake that we have in each other’s success?

This is one of those moments. I realize you’re cynical and fed up with politics. I understand that you’re disappointed and even angry with your leaders. You have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask of you what’s been asked of the American people in times of trial and turmoil throughout our history. I ask you to believe – to believe in yourselves, in each other, and in the future we can build together.

Together, we cannot fail. Not now. Not when we have a crisis to solve and an economy to save. Not when there are so many Americans without jobs and without homes. Not when there are families who can’t afford to see a doctor, or send their child to college, or pay their bills at the end of the month. Not when there is a generation that is counting on us to give them the same opportunities and the same chances that we had for ourselves.

We can do this. Americans have done this before. Some of us had grandparents or parents who said maybe I can’t go to college but my child can; maybe I can’t have my own business but my child can. I may have to rent, but maybe my children will have a home they can call their own. I may not have a lot of money but maybe my child will run for Senate. I might live in a small village but maybe someday my son can be president of the United States of America.
Now it falls to us. Together, we cannot fail. Together, we can overcome the broken policies and divided politics of the last eight years. Together, we can renew an economy that rewards work and rebuilds the middle class. Together, we can create millions of new jobs, and deliver on the promise of health care you can afford and education that helps your kids compete. We can do this if we come together; if we have confidence in ourselves and each other; if we look beyond the darkness of the day to the bright light of hope that lies ahead. Together, we can change this country and change this world. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.

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