All the President’s Captors – THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors’ “good side” and develop psychological characteristics to please them — “dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think.”
Jamie Dimon Profile Misses The Point: Trusting Bankers Is Too Stupid To Try Again – Poor, sad Jamie Dimon, the frustrated and–by his account–tragically misunderstood chief of megabank J.P. Morgan Chase. It’s not enough that he gets to keep the tens of millions of dollars he netted turning an already enormous institution into a sprawling empire of finance that now controls $2 trillion in assets, even as it has tangled ordinary people in the red tape of the foreclosure mess and seized hundreds of thousands of homes. He wants us to like him, too, and give him props for magnanimously saving the world. The government has been unfairly putting the blame for the financial crisis on Wall Street bankers, he complains to Roger Lowenstein in a profile gracing the cover of Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. "It’s harmful, it’s unfair, and it leads to bad policy," Dimon is quoted as saying, leaving you free to imagine the sad strains of the string quartet playing for him as he nurses a brandy at one or another of his residences. .
Social Security and the Very Serious People – Karl Smith ventures a guess about why elite pundits and analysts obsess so much over Social Security even though its solvency problem is fairly easy to solve. He thinks they obsess over it because its solvency problem is so easy to solve: I think Very Serious People concentrate on Social Security because they can understand it. The program is relatively simple and the math straightforward. The ultimate driver of most projections — that there will be more retirees than workers — makes sense. There might be something to this. As pushback, I’d note — and perhaps you’ve seen this in action yourself? — that opinion mongers don’t generally have any problem pushing simplistic solutions to fantastically complex problems. So I’m not sure Social Security’s relative simplicity really explains much. On the other hand, it’s true that there’s a class of problems that are not only hard, but also seem hard to ordinary people, and things like healthcare and globalization might fall into those categories. By contrast, there’s a different class of problems that are hard, but seem pretty simple to lots of people.
So That’s Where the Money Went – HOW the truth shines through when you shed a little light on a subject. Such is the message from the massive document drop the Federal Reserve made last week. The Dodd-Frank law forced the Fed to disclose the recipients of $3.3 trillion from emergency lending programs put in place during the crisis days of 2008, so the taxpayers who paid for those rescue efforts now know whom they were helping. Not that we should expect to receive any thank-you notes from these institutions for rescuing them from themselves. Still, it’s good to know who got what at the bailout banquet. This helps us understand how expensive it is to live in a nation where big, politically interconnected financial institutions are not allowed to fail — even after they mess up in the most catastrophic of ways.
4 Million Americans Set To Lose Unemployment Benefits Even If Congress Passes Extension (CHART) – Even as Congress debates whether to extend emergency unemployment checks for more than six million Americans who are approaching the 99-week limit, some four million others are facing the certain end of their benefits over the next year, unless an entirely new program is crafted. This is the sobering conclusion of a report released by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers on Thursday. The study forecast that the exhaustion of unemployment benefits for so many will curb spending power enough to significantly impede an already weak economic recovery. The typical household now receiving emergency unemployment benefits would see their income fall by a third should they lose their checks, according to the report. Among the roughly 40 percent of households in which the person receiving a check is the sole breadwinner, income would fall by 90 percent.
Obama Signals Openness to a Tax-Cut Deal –The U.S. Senate on Saturday defeated two attempts by Democrats to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class permanently. After the Senate votes, President Barack Obama told Democratic congressional leaders he would be open to a temporary extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for the affluent, but he would demand concessions from the GOP. In rare weekend votes that likely had little effect on wider negotiations to reach a compromise about extending the tax cuts, the Senate voted 53-36 to reject an attempt to initiate debate in the chamber on a measure that would have extended lower tax rates for individuals who earn less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000. The measure would have also renewed the estate tax from 2011 at the same level it was set at in 2009 before it expired at the end of that year. It would levy a 45% tax on estates valued at than $3.5 million. Without congressional action, the estate tax will be reinstated in 2011 at a 55% level on estates in excess of $1 million.