The Incredible Volcker

The Incredible Volcker

Read at the New York Times

It’s been over three years since the Dodd-Frank Act became law, although most of its regulations were left to be written into it at a later date. So it was just last week that the much-vaunted Volcker Rule was codified and included in the law.

Bankers and their lobbyists are freaking out about it, which means it must be doing at least some good. But it’s really just a minor provision. Anything but the return of Glass-Steagall only tackles a few symptoms of the financial sector’s hold on the economy at large.

There were multiple people who did not get why Elizabeth Warren is wearing an eye patch. I overestimated the number of readers who saw those indie films from the small art-house studio called Disney-Marvel, including their little-known cult hit, “The Avengers.”

Greetings from Flyover Country

Greetings from Flyover Country

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President Obama is in the midst of touring the country and giving speeches about the economy. I agree with most of the content of those speeches, but after five years of saying those same things, the economy remains stuck in the shitter for most Americans. The fact that those speeches focus almost entirely on the middle class, and only briefly mention “those willing to work” out of poverty highlights the President’s desire distance himself from those hardest hit by economic inequality, lest he be blamed for catering to his base of “moochers.”

Yes, the obstructionist House is mostly to blame, and I’ll probably go after them in next week’s ‘toon, but thinking a nationwide tour will somehow turn them around this time is a folly. Wall Street and the elite are reaping all the benefits from this anemic “recovery,” but the rest of us remain mired in an economic crisis. Both parties are so far removed from it, they’re not treating it like the disaster it is.

Detroit is an extreme example, but if the status quo remains, its fate could be any city’s.

Indicators of the Real Economy

Indicators of the Real Economy

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The big economic news last week was a rise in housing prices, and that women are now the main breadwinners in 40 percent of families. Combined with the other indicators commonly used by the government and the media, the anemic recovery looks like it’s finally gaining some steam. But anyone with eyeballs can see unemployment has been insanely high for five years while those lucky enough to be employed have seen their wages stagnate or go down.

This “recovery” is fueled almost entirely by record corporate profits. I’m not sure what’s so great about rising housing prices anyway, since that’s what caused the last bust. And I couldn’t afford a house when prices were at all-time lows. As a lifelong renter, I’m essentially a non-entity as far as economists are concerned.

I personally won’t feel like the economy’s healthy until I can buy a boat. Right now the Brian Boat Index is at a pathetic 0 Boats. Thanks, Obama.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Dow Jones Industrial Average

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The Dow Jones reached record highs last week! The recovery’s over … for the rich. The rest of us have had more productivity squeezed out of us for the same, or even lower wages, or are one of the 12 million or so who want a job but can’t find one.

February’s jobs numbers were pretty decent, for an average month in the 90’s. But to make a dent in unemployment, those numbers would have to be significantly higher than that for a year just to bring us back to 2007’s not-so-great numbers. Unfortunately, it’s easier to report on the Dow with a green or red arrow and a number, than to explain the fall in median incomes and household wealth. It’s not impossible though. This video was everywhere last week, which shows the public actually wants to hear about this stuff:

And the stupidity of austerity, which we’re euphemistically calling “the sequester” because everyone knows austerity doesn’t work, won’t begin to gum up our already shitty economy until the end of this month. FUN TIMES.

I don’t own a portfolio, so I generally don’t read The Wall Street Journal, but this article about the poor, long-suffering banks is an example of how far up its own ass the financial sector is, five years after ruining everything:

Moreover, as investors chase stock returns, they are dumping fixed-income products, which will likely put pressure on interest rates. Over time, this will help the lending side of the ledger, which has been squeezed by razor-thin interest margins.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that even when all of the financial-crisis overhang subsides and the economy is thriving, it is unlikely that banks will be able to engage in the level of leverage that created outsize profits and stock valuations of the bubble days. U.S. regulators might not be able to rein in pay incentives as their European counterparts have, but they have been aggressive on balance-sheet risk.

Aw, those poor banks! They won’t be able to repeat the same disaster we’re still living through! They’ll have to come up with new bullshit schemes to extract wealth from ordinary Americans. And even though it’s a given that the U.S. won’t cut the bankers’ balls off like the Swiss did, there’ll be some unpleasant rules to make sure their balance-sheets are slightly grounded in reality. Fuck those guys.

Lastly, Eric Holder admits he’s a wuss.

New Bank Reforms/How They Lost $2 Billion

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Since both cartoons this weekend were about JPMorgan’s huge loss, I figured I’d lump ’em into one post. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is also on the board of the NY Fed. I’m sure he is super-great at oversight besides this little $3+ billion whoopsie-daisy. He’s against even the lukewarm reforms that were included in Dodd-Frank following the 2008 economic collapse.

And speaking of Dodd-Frank, it really is only half-written. Two years after it passed. Check out the page for the House Financial Services Committee and get a load of these regulation-hatin’ morons bitching about the rules they’re supposed to be writing.

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And as I noted in the tag at the bottom of the comic, that loss increased by at least another billion in the week since I drew this cartoon.

Austerity Fever

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Europe’s dumb austerity experiment seems to finally be coming to a close. It’s the exact opposite of what should be done in a massive recession, but fat chance seeing the Keynesian spending necessary to pull the global economy out of this gigantic hole. We’ll most likely see a return to the pre-recession status quo and an anemic recovery that lasts for the next decade. Fun!

The Working Poor Electronics Show

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The Consumer Electronics Show was last week, and in between fluff pieces about ultralight laptops, cars connected to the cloud for no discernible reason, and dozens of other gizmos, a few stories about worker conditions at Foxconn trickled through. If you haven’t heard it already, the This American Life episode about it is probably the best overview, although the focus on Apple glosses over the fact that pretty much every electronics company uses parts made by the same company.

The bad press might have been enough to spur Apple to do more, since they announced they’ll be more open about their supply chain over the weekend. It’s obviously not a cure-all, but at least people are starting to become aware what the invisible hand of the free market has been up to in China.

The asshole in the rotary phone panel is Robert Rector, who wrote this charming bit of stupid last year. In addition to being an asshole, he has the worst mustache in the world.

UPDATE: I merely gave it a fleeting mention in the comic, but The Daily Show’s Foxconn segment on Monday was perfect.

Lifestyles of the Stealthily Wealthy

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I read this article about rich people’s tricked out cargo vans in New York City the week before and got inspired for this cartoon. Although not as gaudy as a stretch Hummer, these vans are ridiculous. They can’t even find parking in the city, so the chauffeurs just drive them around until their owners need them.

I can’t for the life of me find any video online, but it’s all very reminiscent of the Chameleon XLE ad from SNL.

Black Friday Bargains

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If you’re shopping on Friday, and it’s not online, but in an actual store, you are a moron. I’ll let my friend August elaborate. If we all practice tantric consuming, and hold onto what little wads we have left in our wallets for as long as possible before bukkake-ing businesses with our hard-earned-dollar-jizz, retailers will really freak out and start offering even better deals. And those fuckers can afford it. Corporations are sitting on billions; it’s our lack of jobs, income, and aggregate demand that’s holding things back.

I’ve owned a Pet Zune for a year now, (It bricked last fall.) and I must really like the Zune software because I now own a Windows Phone. I really do like that phone though. Please refer to this paragraph whenever someone refers to me as a hipster.

I’m probably dating myself with the Nell reference, but it’s one I still frequently use in real life. If you haven’t seen this batshit insane film, I implore you to do so immediately.

Tay ina win, Jodie, Tay ina win.

Secrets of the Super Committee

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The Occupy movement has thankfully shifted the media’s and public’s focus on jobs and income inequality. But last summer’s ridiculous “debate” about the debt ceiling, where the GOP held the country and the global economy hostage to get its way, resulted in the formation of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, AKA The Super Committee. They’re supposed to reach to an agreement before Thanksgiving, or automatic cuts in defense and social services go into effect…in 2013.

Fans of war are shitting their pants at the prospect of cuts, although they’d only go down to 2007 levels. Remember 2007? Our military industrial complex was so tiny back then; only involved in two quagmires and who knows how many surveillance and assassination actions. Surely going back to that is the equivalent of turning the military into a ragtag group of militia men, who have more money than the rest of the world’s defense budgets combined.

And fans of of not living in a third world nation are equally pants-shitting about cuts to social programs, including myself. The whole charade was conducted to cut these programs, and Obama played along instead of pointing out the absurdity of the whole thing.

Yes, the deficit is a problem. But we are in the middle of the longest fucking recession most Americans remember. (OK great-grampa, you still win at Great Depressions, for now. We’re trying real hard to top you though.) Revenues were already thrown way out of whack by the Bush Tax Cuts and all that “pro-business” shit Clinton pulled. Throw in long-term 9% unemployment, and they drop precipitously.

We need growth, and the only way to do that is through government spending. The pittance we’re arguing about now is only enough to maintain our current shit-sandwich of an economy. Individuals and businesses are rightfully holding on to what cash they have, so government is the only entity that can make the unselfish decision to spend large amounts for the benefit of everyone else. Interest rates are at an all time low, and it’s a crime to not use that virtually free money to make much-needed investments in infrastructure, education, and anything else that will pay for itself through the growth and demand it creates.

I’m honestly not too worried if the Super Committee fails. Like the comic says, anything they do, or what happens if they fail to reach an agreement can be changed or nullified by a future Congress. It’s in the Constitution! John McCain’s already working on this solution to preserve his precious defense spending. And if you think the Occupy movement is big now, wait until this Super Committee super-shit hits the super-fan.

Oh, and check out Mark Fiore’s animation about the Super Committee. I’m glad I watched it before drawing this cartoon, not only because it’s funny, but I originally sketched the title panel to look like the Super Friends Hall of Justice.