Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
October 19, 2012
Mr. President: This week John McArthur, the publisher and president of Harper's
magazine was interviewed on France 24, a French news channel. According to him,
Senators Maria Cantwell (D. Washington) and John McCain (R. Arizona) presented
you Glass-Steagall on a plate. Given the rhetoric from the White House about
reining in the banks, it comes as a surprise that the offer was refused. On the other
hand, maybe it's not, given the advisers you chose, notably Bob Rubin and Larry
Summers, were the principal architects of the repeal of Glass-Steagall in the Clinton
administration. The merging of investment and regular commercial banking not only
caused the banking crisis, but it has bequeathed erratic earnings at least for one
bank. J.P. Morgan Chase reported a huge loss in derivatives trading last quarter,
and a huge net income this quarter. Surely, the least we can expect form our
so-called 'too-big-to-fail' bank is to not behave like a drunken sailor at a casino.
Here are some basic indisputable facts:
Canada sailed through the banking crisis because it had not permitted this
agglomeration of commercial banks, investment banks, insurers, brokerages, etc.
Their commercial banks did not have the same exposure and are perfectly healthy.
The percent of GDP spent on Medicare would be sufficient to cover the entire
country if we were on a single-payer system. Britain and other European countries
already do it. They also have lower infant mortality and higher life expectancy rates.
The budget deficit of over a trillion has its seeds in the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and
2003, the Iraq war, and the recession caused by banking excesses resulting from the
repeal of Glass-Steagall.
There is no objective evidence relating low taxes with higher economic growth. The
Eisenhower years with their remarkable growth were unencumbered by the 90
percent marginal tax rate on the wealthiest.
Our taxes at 26 percent (including all federal and state income tax, payroll taxes for
social Security and Medicare, local and sales taxes) are the lowest among OECD
countries which average 38 percent. Moreover we spend more on the military than
the rest of the world combined. Thus raising taxes to the level necessary to maintain
a modern state would solve the Social Security and Medicare problems. One might
note that paying Medicare providers by visit and test and procedure incentivizes
needless care. And surely all the bells and whistles of sophisticated hardware without
a comparable adversary in sight is hardly necessary.
Today is the sixteenth day of a vicious assault on Bani Walid in Libya. Women and
children trapped in the town are being slaughtered by heavy bombardment. Human
Rights Watch has documented the use of toxic gas by the current Libyan government,
a blockade of food, water and necessary supplies for civilians, the violent dispersal of
demonstrations protesting the merciless attack and other egregious behavior. Two
questions: Is this the 'liberty' being touted by this government? Why are we not
protecting the civilians in Bani Walid as we rushed to do in Benghazi?
Finally, there is one question no one is going to discuss on Monday's Presidential
debate and that is the steep decline in respect and admiration for the U.S. in every
corner of the world -- a direct consequence of Iraq and Afghanistan which have
broadcast the limits to American power.