Getting Conned by CONs

In the healthcare industry, a certificate of need, also known by the acronym CON, is an anticompetitive licensing restriction allegedly designed to promote fair competition by requiring hospitals to demonstrate the need for certain projects and services in order to receive governmental permission for those projects and services.
Under a CON scheme, a hospital – -let’s call it Hospital X – -that wishes to expand its facilities applies to a state health planning agency for a CON. Nearby hospitals – perhaps Hospital X’s competitors, Hospital Y and Hospital Z – may oppose Hospital X’s CON application. An administrative law judge (ALJ) reviews Hospital X’s CON application and supporting evidence, holds a hearing on the matter, evaluates the parties and witnesses, and determines whether Hospital X has met the statutory criteria for the issuance of a CON. These criteria differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

This post was published at Mises Canada on October 8th, 2014.

Crony Capitalism Is Kryptonite to Democracy and the Real Economy

When the machinery of governance is ruled by the highest bidders, democracy is dead.
Last week I described the sources of America’s America’s terminal political dysfunction. The engine of this terminal dysfunction is crony capitalism, the incestuous and oh-so-profitable marriage of the Central State and monied Elites.
Gordon T. Long and I continue our discussion of the perverse incentives and consequences of crony capitalism in a 25-minute video program.
Gordon argues that America’s Crony Capitalism closely resembles the Roman Tribute System, an arrangement that skims wealth and concentrates it at the top of the power pyramid.
Vast financial crimes are met with fines. Guilty parties do not go to jail but rather the corporation pays a fine. Billion-dollar crimes are assessed million-dollar fines– a percentage that closely mirrors a Tribute System. The government makes money through enforcement but not prevention. Corporations make illicit fortunes with the confidence that the government will settle for a small slice of the wealth stripmined from the people.
The fines for financial skimming operations act as a form of tribute to the Central State: the State and its corrupt elected officials and regulators turn a blind eye to the pillage of the citizenry via financialization schemes, and then skim a tribute via fines and campaign contributions.


This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on SUNDAY, OCTOBER 05, 2014.

Monsanto’s ‘zombie wheat’ case reveals serious legal vulnerabilities in business model

Monsanto’s business model is falling apart right in front of their own face, because the biotech firm blatantly disrespects the property rights of farmers, contaminating their fields with unauthorized genetically modified seeds. These unapproved GMO seeds inevitably cross-contaminate farmers’ fields, effectively destroying their yields. That’s exactly what happened in Oregon last year when some unauthorized “zombie wheat” from the Monsanto Company went from the lab and intermixed with a farmer’s natural wheat. The debacle disrupted wheat exports as Japan and South Korea blocked shipments. A contingency of farmers have joined forces and sued Monsanto.
Monsanto may finally admit to cross-contaminating farmers’ wheat Although the details of the case have been kept private, Monsanto did acknowledge that an “agreement in principle has been reached, but not finalized.”
Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now, is encouraging the farmers not to settle but to stand their ground. This case could establish a new precedent forbidding Monsanto and other biotech firms from cross-contaminating farmers’ crops. “Monsanto never settles unless they’re seriously vulnerable, and the farmers and lawyers involved in this case should reject any settlement,” said Murphy. “Contamination of farmers’ crops has been an integral part of Monsanto’s business plan, and these farmers need to gain strong legal protections from future contamination events, which are happening daily in farmers’ fields all over the world.”

This post was published at Natural News on Monday, October 06, 2014.

‘Cancer Vortex’: Medical industry profits pre-empt healthcare

I’ve reviewed two of Ken Anton’s books:
Popsicle Man is a novel form to share real-world history of US oligarchs with Emperor’s New Clothes’ obvious crimes centering in war and money Cancer Vortex provides similar powerful history of the medical oligarchs who block medically and legally proven cancer cures in order to protect industry profits in the annual billions (here, here, here, here). Ken explains more in this article, reprinted with his permission:
Medical Industry Profits Pre-empt Healthcare
The US healthcare industry is run by a Medical Cartel which explains why it is the most expensive in the world, yet provides less services than other advanced economies.
A strict protocol was established for cancer treatment involving just three procedures: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Where innovators outside the tightly controlled Medical Cartel tried to introduce alternative treatments such as herbal formulas, special supplements, foods or complete nutritional programs, the AMA and FDA labeled these procedures quackery, harassing the owners, raiding their clinics and in some cases prosecuting them in the courts; whatever was necessary to shut them down.
Why such an aggressive attitude towards natural, non-invasive therapies? Basically, the cartel cannot tolerate competition from low cost, non-patentable therapies even those with scientific proof of actually curing cancer. The cozy relationship between the Food and Drug Administration (the primary government regulator) and Big Pharma is well known, as is the revolving door between the top echelons of each.

This post was published at Washingtons Blog on October 4, 2014.

Sports Stadiums: Temples to Crony Capitalism

The NFL is running one of its own games on the public, and as one of the most subsidized non-profit organizations in American history, the NFL excels at tackling the American taxpayer. It should be of no surprise that with its religious-like following, the NFL receives the same tax-exempt status as a church, exempted under the IRS 501 (c) 6 code from paying federal taxes. The legislation puts the NFL as a non-profit trade association which it has been under since 1942.
But over the past twenty years, 101 new sports facilities have opened in the United States – a 90-percent replacement rate – and lately there has been a rising tendency for renovation costs to skyrocket into the hundreds of millions, which, according to Harvard University urban planning professor Judith Grant Long, the taxpayer foots on average 70 percent of the bill, with often not a penny coming out of the pockets of the team or its owners. The rest of the funding comes from tax-exempt municipal bonds supported under the G4 stadium loan program, which provides loans in return for revenue generated from ticket sales and premium seating.
As is the case with ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions, the NFL is given politically-favored status, and protected by a trench of antitrust exemptions. But unlike the overpaid (read: taxpayer-subsidized) CEOs of Goldman Sachs and Chase Bank, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell earns twice as much as them, thanks to an NFL flush with taxpayer cash. Goodell earned more than $44 million in 2013, and in the past five years he has made over $105 million.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Friday, October 03, 2014.

Inflation over 270 years: It is hard to feel the tornado of price erosion when you are standing in the eye of the financial storm.

People tend to be creatures of habits. It always intrigues me how most of the people I speak with seem to already assume that prices will always go up. It is the default life position. They know the sun will rise, grass will typically be green, and prices over time will go up. While some are based in natural law, inflation is and will always be a human made condition. So it is important to step back from the day to day operations that guide us and actually look at where prices stand today in relation to history. I think most in the US really don’t have the fear of say South America or Europe when it comes to inflation because they have never witnessed a full crisis driven by out of control money policies. Today, we are told that inflation is low yet when we actually step back, inflation is already eroding the purchasing power of the middle class dramatically. It is usually helpful to look at history as to learn from our past.
270 years of inflation
I think we can learn a lot from looking at data. While we can learn a lot from history, you will also realize that people are still governed by greed, cronyism, and poor judgment. After all, the Great Recession was the worst financial crisis in the US since the Great Depression. Did we not learn the lessons from the past? Life is a live action situation and inflation is one of those components.
I found this chart to be extremely illuminating:

This post was published at MyBudget360 on October 2, 2014.

Kudos To Judge Lamberth: Bubkis Hedge Fund Claims Against Freddie/Fannie Get Heave-Ho

During the last year or two a passel of crony capitalist hucksters led by hedge fund operatives Bruce Berkowitz and Bill Ackman have been attempting to pilfer upwards of $40 billion from US taxpayers via a raid on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Kudos to US District Judge Lamberth whose Tuesday ruling stopped them cold.
And don’t shed a tear for the hedge fund boys. Notwithstanding the collapse shown below, the FNMA stock plunge still has more to go; its real value is bubkis – just like their claims.

FNMA data by YCharts
Like in so many other cases during the post-crisis aftermath, these hedge funds scooped-up the worthless preferred and common stock of Freddie and Fannie – -expecting these penny stocks to soar as the Fed’s tsunami of liquidity rekindled speculative appetites and its free carry trade financing buoyed the markets for risk assets. In this particular case, the potential jackpot was to be powerfully augmented by an expected legislative or judicial ruling that owners of these beaten down equities were entitled to their pro rata share of the surging but entirely phony profits of Freddie and Fannie.
To its credit, the Obama administration had previously recognized that absent Uncle Sam’s bailout of the roughly $6 trillion of Freddie/Fannie mortgage guarantees and debentures, the junior equity securities in their capital structures would have been worthless. In fact, at the time Freddie/Fannie were essentially nationalized by the Bush Administration in September 2008, the thin layer of equity represented by these shares had been leveraged at approximately 100X, and would have been obliterated in a proper bankruptcy. Accordingly, the Obama folks had simply decided to treat the remnants of Freddie/Fannie as a wholly owned government investment fund, and swept 100% of the book profits posted each quarter.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on October 2, 2014.

The Sources of America’s Political & Financial Dysfunction

The way to preserve great wealth is to buy political protection of that wealth. The way to protect great political leverage is to grease the machinery of governance with cash.
I confess that reading Francis Fukuyama’s latest cri du coeur in Foreign Affairs, America in Decay: The Sources of Political Dysfunction made me think Mr. Fukuyama has either been reading or channeling Of Two Minds.com , as his brutal assessment of America’s terminal political dysfunction reflects many of the themes I’ve been hammering on for the past 9 years.
Unfortunately for his readers, Mr. Fukuyama stops short of identifying the key dynamic in America’s dysfunction: the exhaustion of Central Planning and centralized government as a “solution” for every ill. Despite his failure to cross the goal line and put truly incisive points on the scoreboard, Mr. Fukuyama does the nation a valuable service in cogently describing the dynamics of our terminal political dysfunction.
Fukuyama describes the inevitable end-game of money capturing the political machinery of the central state: every big-bucks lobby/constituency has veto powerover Federal policies and budget priorities. In effect, every lobby can veto any initiative that crimps their power or share of Federal swag.
As a result, any serious reform that causes financial-political pain is soon reduced by entrenched interests to a toothless public-relations shell: the shell will still carry an idealistic-sounding label (“financial reform,” etc.) but the machinery of governance is unchanged.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on THURSDAY, OCTOBER 02, 2014.

Four Other Lawyer Whistleblowers are Essential at the Carmen Segarra Senate Witness Table

Wall Street’s crime spree has been coming at the public for the past six years like a geyser spewing from a broken water main. It’s been tough for the public to keep tract of the twists and turns, and equally so for Congress.
What has been lost in all the media frenzy over the tapes released by Carmen Segarra, an attorney and bank examiner at the New York Fed who was fired for wanting to hold Goldman Sachs accountable, according to her lawsuit, is that four other regulatory lawyers have stepped forward from 2006 to earlier this year to report that their Wall Street regulator has been captured. In the case of those four, the captured regulator is the Securities and Exchange Commission.
When you have five Wall Street insiders with law degrees telling you that Wall Street regulators are not upholding the laws they are mandated to enforce while the nation is still struggling to recover from an epic financial crash this corrupt cronyism produced just six years ago, it’s time to allow the public to hear directly from all of these voices at one Senate witness table.
On March 27 of this year, a 28-year legal veteran at the SEC, James Kidney, used the occasion of his retirement party to deliver a blistering assessment of the regulatory capture at this key Wall Street watchdog. Kidney castigated upper management at the SEC for policing ‘the broken windows on the street level’ while ignoring the ‘penthouse floors.’ Kidney further noted that ‘On the rare occasions when Enforcement does go to the penthouse, good manners are paramount. Tough enforcement – risky enforcement – is subject to extensive negotiation and weakening.’

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on October 1, 2014.

The Counter-Intuitive Rise of the U.S. Dollar

As things get dicier globally, assets in periphery nations typically get dumped as mobile capital flees risk and migrates to lower risk core nations and currencies.
I received many thoughtful comments on Why the Dollar May Remain Strong For Longer Than We Think. Given the many weaknesses of the U. S.–ballooning social-welfare and crony-capitalist liabilities, free money for financiers monetary policies, etc.–a strengthening dollar (USD) strikes many as counter-intuitive. The dynamic complexities of fiscal and monetary policies, global capital flows and the foreign exchange (FX) market complicate any inquiry, so I try to keep it simple. In my view, the USD serves both transactional (global trade) markets and the global need for currency reserves (i.e. as a store-of-value). Sorting out the various influences on its relative value in each capacity is complex enough, but there is also the X Factor–the hard-to-quantify components of any currency’s relative value. For the USD, the X Factor is hegemony, which includes financial dominance based on debt issued/denominated in USD and what might be called the real-world assets of the issuing nation: that nation’s food, energy and water security (what I call the FEW resources), its proximity to potential enemies, its external environmental costs, its overseas financial assets, the strength of its legal system in protecting private assets, its demographic profile and of course its ability to project power to defend its interests. By these basic measures, the U. S. scores pretty well. We can get some perspective on this by putting ourselves in the shoes of wealthy people in periphery nations where the risks of capital controls, currency devaluation, etc. are perceived to be high, or in the shoes of corrupt elites in countries where they fear their ill-gotten gains might not survive blowback (hence the almost universal desire of elites to leave China with their loot).

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2014.

Is the UK a ‘Nation by Consent’?

From the Editors:
Today Scotland votes on a referendum concerning political independence from the United Kingdom.
For libertarians, the politics surrounding both sides of the vote are suspicious. The globalist banking class, ever fearful of decentralization of power, warns that Scotland needs Westminster’s economic assistance (read: welfare), Westminster’s military might, and Westminster’s currency. The largely socialist Scots, meanwhile, argue for a more ‘egalitarian’ society administered by Holyrood and a new alliance with their more enlightened fellow travelers in Brussels – leaving one master for another.
As always, libertarians should focus on first principles. Murray Rothbard’s 1993 essay,’Nations by Consent: Decomposing the Nation-State,’ does just that.
Rothbard asks the correct questions: What is a nation? What makes a nation legitimate? Are nation-states needed for collective security? When is secession allowed? Should open borders and open immigration be allowed? How should citizenship and voting rights be conferred? How would a completely private, anarcho-capitalist country operate?
These are the questions we must ask and answer as we argue against the state, against central banks, and against an increasingly global crony political class.
Nations By Consent: Decomposing the Nation-Sate
Libertarians tend to focus on two important units of analysis: the individual and the state. And yet, one of the most dramatic and significant events of our time has been the re-emergence – with a bang – in the last five years of a third and much-neglected aspect of the real world, the ‘nation.’ When the ‘nation’ has been thought of at all, it usually comes attached to the state, as in the common word, ‘the nation-state,’ but this concept takes a particular development of recent centuries and elaborates it into a universal maxim. In the last five years, however, we have seen, as a corollary of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, a vivid and startlingly swift decomposition of the centralized State or alleged nation-State into its constituent nationalities. The genuine nation, or nationality, has made a dramatic reappearance on the world stage.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on September 18, 2014.

Which Global Hegemon Is on Shifting Sands?

Given that all the leading candidates for Global Hegemon are hastening down paths of self-destruction, perhaps there will be no global hegemon dominating the 21st century.
Which nation with aspirations of global dominance (i.e. hegemony) has these attributes? 1. The nation’s recent prosperity is based on a vast expansion of credit.
2. The nation has 100 million obese/diabetic citizens.
3. The citizens have little say over central government policies that favor cronies.
4. The nation faces demographic headwinds as the number of people in the workforce declines and the number of retirees balloons.
5. Large regions of the nation suffer from chronic water shortages.
Hmm, sounds like the U. S. is a match so far…. Let’s add a few more attributes: 6. The nation’s credit expansion has relied on a largely unregulated shadow banking system. 7. The nation is in the midst of an unprecedented housing bubble.
This could still be the U. S., but America’s unprecedented housing bubble popped in 2006–the current bubble is a mere echo bubble. Let’s add a few more attributes:
8. The nation is beset with unprecedented “external” environmental costs as a result of rapid and largely unregulated industrialization.
9. The nation suffers from large-scale desertification.
10. Over half the nation’s monied Elites have either left the nation or plan to leave and transfer their financial wealth overseas.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2014.

The Biggest Risk For Investing In Alibaba Is…

Submitted by George Chen via The South China Morning Post,
What is the biggest risk for investors in China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba? In one word: politics.
Jack Ma Yun, English teacher-turned entrepreneur, is already a legend in China for the incredibly fast growth and remarkable success of the e-commerce firm he founded in 1999. I have no doubt about Ma’s business experience and leadership skills, but there is one thing Ma – and many of his rivals – may be worried about. Politics.
The Alibaba success story is not just about Alibaba itself. It is about the inevitable trend of globalisation, the rise of China as a country on political and economic fronts, and also about how eager Beijing is to support and build up a crop of new national brands that can compete with the likes of Google and Amazon in the United States.
“To have political connections in Beijing … isn’t necessarily bad. Many companies try to do so”
Beijing’s support – directly or indirectly – is a key factor in Alibaba’s success. Without the government’s support, Ma would not have felt confident enough to speak in New York in front of hundreds of Wall Street investors during the recent roadshow for Alibaba’s initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.
Ma understands the importance of the government’s backing for Alibaba and most of the time he has been good at lobbying Beijing for policy support.
However, in at least one case he had a setback and was honest enough to tell the public how he felt about that.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on 09/14/2014.

Robert Fisk on Isis campaign: Bingo! Here’s another force of evil to be ‘vanquished’

Resurrection, reinvention and linguistics. Barack Obama did the lot. And now he’s taking America to war in Syria as well as Iraq. Oh yes, and he’s going to defeat Isis, its “barbarism”, “genocide”, its “warped ideology” – until the bad guys are “vanquished from the earth”. What happened to George W. Bush?
But let’s go through this with a linguistic comb. First, Obama is going to resurrect the Sunni “Awakening Council” militias – a creature invented by a certain General David Petraeus – who were paid to fight al-Qaeda by the Americans during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but who then got blasted by al-Qaeda and betrayed by the Shia-dominated Iraqi government. Obama has even invented a new name for these militias: he called them “National Guard Units” who will “help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from Isil”. National Guard indeed!
Then there’s the reinvention of the “moderate” Syrian opposition which was once called the Free Syrian Army – a force of deserters corrupted and betrayed by both the West and its Islamic allies – and which no longer exists. This ghost army is now going to be called the “Syrian National Coalition” and be trained – of all places – in Saudi Arabia, whose citizens have given zillions of dollars to al-Qaeda in Iraq, Isis, Isil, IS (you decide on the acronym), Jabhat al-Nusra and sundry other bad guys whom Obama now wants to “vanquish from the earth”.

This post was published at The Independent

President Obama Announces Operation Enduring Burden.

On the evening of September 10, President Obama delivered a speech on ISIL, as he calls it, which everyone else calls ISIS.
Here is his problem. ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Hardly any American knows what the Levant is. It’s the entire region.
If President Obama were to stick with the acronym ISIS, this would create a huge PR problem. If he calls it the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, this makes it clear that two countries are involved. Therefore, he must commit American forces — but not troops, meaning “boots on the ground” — to war in two nations. One of them is Syria. Until a few months ago, ISIS was regarded by American foreign policy experts as being part of the opposition in Syria — opposition to the government of Syria, which is run by Bashar “Hitler” Assad.
ISIS four months ago was a freedom-fighting organization. Now it is officially a fighting-freedom organization. Keep this in mind as you read the highlights of the President’s speech.
My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.
He calls it ISIL Over the last year, the President has overseen the transfer of money and weapons to ISIS, a freedom-fighting organization in Syria. Now he is going to transfer more money and more weapons to the freedom fighters in Syria, who will use it to fight the ISIL organization, which is fighting-freedom organization.
I hope you understand the difference. You have an obligation to understand the difference. Without this understanding, American foreign policy would look like decision-making by lunatics.
Furthermore, he assured us that the leaders of ISIL are confused. They call the organization “Islamic” — the first I in ISIS. The President is not confused. ISIS is not Islamic at all. Not one little bit.

This post was published at Gary North on September 11, 2014.

The thriving cronyism of the stock market: 81 percent of stock market wealth held in the hands by 10 percent of the population. Housing also being snatched from middle class families.

Most Americans are confronting a system where the deck is stacked against their interests. Most Americans saw the true colors of the system during the Great Recession panic when government joined forces with Wall Street to essentially fire the middle class with explicit and hidden bailouts. There is unfortunately a large amount of cronyism embedded in the current system. Most Americans have very little in stock market wealth. Over 81 percent of stock wealth is held by the top 10 percent of the population. This is why for most, retirement is largely one pipe dream. Yet the problem of the bailouts was the split of corporate welfare for connected institutions and austerity measures for the rest of the country. Wall Street is driven by profits and companies were able to slash their way into profitability while boosting earnings and using large safety nets and golden parachutes for those at the top. Banks that should have failed survived thanks to the too big to fail mantra. This is why, after a record stock market run since 2009 many Americans still view the economy as performing poorly. For them it is. You also have Wall Street invading the one asset where Americans used as a forced savings account, housing. Even in this one asset class Americans are being pushed out.
Not buying the stock market rally
The data is clear in that very few Americans own any substantial amount in stock wealth. 81 percent of stock wealth is held with 10 percent of the population. The recent rally was driven by slashing wages, cutting benefits, leveraging bailout funds, and ultimately using the recession as proof that labor was fully disposable. The days of corporatism are gone and now the reality of company loyalty is long gone. The government and lobbyists will assist those at the top but for most middle class Americans, the game is over.
This is how you can have a stock market peak with such poor sentiment:

This post was published at MyBudget360 on September 10, 2014.

Why Has Classical Capitalism Devolved to Crony-Capitalism?

The money-shot: “People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”
Here is the quote that perfectly captures our era: “People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.” (John Kenneth Galbraith) The trick, of course, is to mask the unspoken second half of of that statement: everybody else gets destroyed along with the Elites when the system implodes. Union pension funds: toast. Government employees’ pension funds: toast. 401Ks: toast. IRAs: toast. The echo-bubble in housing: toast. The Fed’s favorite PR cover to cloak the enrichment of their financier cronies, the wealth effect:toast.
The primary tool the Elites use to mask the risk of complete destruction is magical thinking–specifically, that “given enough time, the system will heal itself.”
That’s rich, considering that the Elites’ primary tool of avoiding destruction is crippling the market’s self-healing immune system: price discovery. Thanks to ceaseless interventions by central banks, the price discovery mechanism has been shattered: want to know the price of risk? It’s near-zero. Yield on sovereign bonds? Near-zero. And so on.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2014.

Government Health Care Inc : The Chart Which Explains The Whole Medical Mess

Our crony-capitalist driven health care system is devouring the American economy, and the data which proves that baleful trend could not be more dispositive. In 1960, national health expenditures amounted to $150 per capita and hardly 5% of GDP. By the year 2000, these figures had grown to $5,000 per capita and 13.8% of GDP. Today health care devours nearly $9,000 per capita and more than 18% of GDP.
Needless to say, America did not turn into a giant sick bay during the last 55 years. Instead, the health care delivery system was virtually stripped of any semblance of market prices, consumer choice and economic discipline and efficiency. As a practical matter, out-of-pocket payments for health care – unlike almost all other consumption goods – -virtually disappeared from the system.
As a consequence, health care has been essentially transformed into a free good at the point of use. In turn, this has spawned massive over-utilization, gross inefficiency and economic rent extraction by the cartels which dominate the system – – hospital chains, insurance companies, HMOs, Big Pharma, medical equipment and prosthetic vendors, etc.
The chart below explains how this breakdown happened. In a word, the massive expansion of government financed health care after 1965 in the form of Medicaid, Medicare and related programs induced a huge expansion of price-insensitive demand that drove medical prices skyward. In response, both government recipients and employer plan beneficiaries demanded to be shielded from rampant medical cost inflation via more comprehensive coverages and a relentless reduction of out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays at the point of service.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 10, 2014.

Big Banks Headed Straight for Another Bailout

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which included the orderly liquidation living wills requirement, was meant to prevent future rescues of systemically important financial institutions. But the idea that current regulations are capable of solving the too-big-to-fail problem was challenged by the recent regulatory rejection of 11 banks' living wills. Some argue that living wills are a work-in-progress that will improve over time. However, the truth is that living wills are a myth meant to calm the populace. It is impossible to neatly unwind a failed SIFI, since the failure of such a large institution will necessarily cause unacceptable collateral damage.
The most likely course of action is that regulators will maintain the status quo and change nothing of substance, relying on cosmetic fixes to give voters a false sense of security. Some free market enthusiasts might argue that the status quo isn't so bad, so long as customers and not regulators decide how big banks should be. But the SIFI market is anything but free. The big bank model failed in late 2008; in a free market, these banks would have ceased to exist. They survived because they are the creations of the government, not the free market. Exempt from market discipline, they represent crony capitalism at its worst.

This post was published at American Banker

One Way Wall Street Is Fleecing Investors

No Country for Old Men We are sitting in the lobby of the China World Hotel in Beijing. It is a very large space and very unlike most hotels. Monday, we stopped into the lobby of the Marriott Opera Ambassador Hotel on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. Like most lobbies, it was quiet, with just a few people having coffee.
Here, there are hundreds of people – almost all young. I am the oldest person, a fossil from another continent and another time. The young people are dressed casually but well. They sit in groups talking… as though planning their next marketing campaign.
There is scarcely anyone over the age of 40. We have started a small publishing business in China. It, too, is staffed by people in their twenties. What happened to the old people? Maybe they have not been able to keep up with the breathtaking changes in China. This is no country for old men…
‘Everyone has great confidence in the future,’ says a Chinese colleague. ‘Things have gotten so much better over the last 20 years. And we expect that to continue.
‘Our new president, Xi Jinping, is serious about trying to get rid of corruption, even at the highest levels. He is trying to deregulate whole industries. Regulations and licenses were just a way for officials to demand bribes and payoffs. So, Xi wants to get rid of a lot of this so we can do business more freely.’
Whether he will succeed or not, we can’t say. But at least it sounds promising.

Charlie Chaplin stands on Douglas Fairbanks’ shoulders during a rally at Wall Street in 1918.
(Photo author unknown)

This post was published at Acting-Man on September 5, 2014.