Worse than a jet, or an office

It’s fashionable to complain about CITI’s bailout-funded jet or Merrill’s bailout-funded office. But a far more troubling are Wall Street’s bailout-funded lobbyists:

Robert Reich’s Blog: How You and I Are Paying Wall Street to Lobby Congress to Go Easy on Wall Street
The new administration and Congress are busy preparing the second tranche of bailout money for Wall Street — TARP II — at the same time they’re developing a new set of regulations to make sure Wall Street doesn’t get into this kind of mess again. But will the old politics intrude?

Wall Street is one of the biggest campaign contributors to both parties, and the Street’s contributions have increased considerably over the last several election cycles. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, by the 2006 elections, Wall Street contributions to the Democratic Party had caught up with its rising contributions to Republicans.

Yet what’s happened to the Wall Street campaign contributions and to the lobbyists? They’re still going strong. We now know that many of the financial giants that have been bailed out by taxpayers continue to finance a platoon of Washington lobbyists, who are at this moment trying to influence TARP II and the next attempt to regulate Wall Street. In effect, your money and mine, and that of all other taxpayers, is paying these lobbyists to push Congress in a direction we have every reason to believe is not in our interests but in the continued interests of Wall Street. Citigroup, the recipient of $45 billion of taxpayer money so far, is still fielding “an army” of Washington lobbyists, according to the New York Times. Its lobbyists are working on a host of issues, including the bailout. In the fourth quarter of 2008, when it got its first infusion of bailout money, Citi spent $1.77million on lobbying fees. During the last three months of 2008, at least seven other firms receiving bailout funds (American Express, Capital One, Goldman Sachs, KeyCorp, Morgan Stanley, PNC and Bank of New York Mellon) lobbied the government about the bailout.

It is dangerous to the country that Washington is giving failed banks money with which to extract political favors from Washington.

Six months ago, if I would have been asked what the largest, most politically connected, corrupt, and insolvent banks were, I would have guessed names like Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and China Construction Bank: not Citi and Bank of America.

It would be better to allow the banks to be nationalized than keep funding this aristocracy of pull.

(Hat-tip to Economist’s View.)

Russia not prObama

From Russia prObama (Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog):

ARTICLE: Russia Ready to Cooperate With US on Afghanistan, AP, January 23, 2009

More nice signaling.

Remember my bit about everything suddenly becoming 50 percent off the top when Bush-Cheney leaves office?

Four days later:

At any rate, within a day of Petraeus’ remark, Moscow corrected him. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Maslov told Itar-Tass, “No official documents were submitted to Russia’s permanent mission in NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] certifying that Russia had authorized the United States and NATO to transport military supplies across the country.”

A day later, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, added from Brussels, “We know nothing of Russia’s alleged agreement of military transit of Americans or NATO at large. There had been suggestions of the sort, but they were not formalized.” And, with a touch of irony, Rogozin insisted Russia wanted the military alliance to succeed in Afghanistan.

“I can responsibly say that in the event of NATO’s defeat in Afghanistan, fundamentalists who are inspired by this victory will set their eyes on the north. First they will hit Tajikistan, then they will try to break into Uzbekistan … If things turn out badly, in about 10 years, our boys will have to fight well-armed and well-organized Islamists somewhere in Kazakhstan,” the popular Moscow-politician turned diplomat added.

Russian experts have let it be known that Moscow views with disquiet the US’s recent overtures to Central Asian countries regarding bilateral transit treaties with them which exclude Russia. Agreements have been reached with Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Moscow feels the US is pressing ahead with a new Caspian transit route which involves the dispatch of shipments via Georgia to Azerbaijan and thereon to the Kazakh harbor of Aktau and across the Uzbek territory to Amu Darya and northern Afghanistan.

Instead of hoping for change from Putin, better to recognize him as the man who broke Russia’s soft power and ended Russia’s economic reforms.

While Putin has proved himself to be an able domestic politician, and capable of effective flattery, Putin is not prObama, prohOpe, or proChange. He’s pro-Putin.