Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

(((Michele Bachmann is either completely certifiable or utterly cynical; intimations -- but not accusations! not at all! -- of sinister Dem plots to poison the US with swine flu.)))

This is hilarious, mainly because it seems right out of a segment of the Colbert Report: Minnesota Republican representative Michele Bachmann remarked on the "coincidence" that the last swine flu outbreak in the US also occurred in a Democratic administration.

Except, of course, that it didn't. It was the Ford administration (which the linked AP article helpfully notes).

So either she believes that all those Democrats are, as she called them to Chris Matthews, un-American, and so out to get America, to the point where she misremembers things so that they fit this twisted view of her political opponents, or she makes it up because she knows it gets her fans and she doesn't care that it's not true. Either way, it is Bad.

And for what it's worth, it's never occurred to me that someone like George Bush or Karl Rove hates America. They love it. It's just that most of what they love about it is what I hate about it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Activist Judges Threaten CEO Compensation

(((Richard Posner as "activist judge;" the market is structurally incapable of setting CEO compensation and mutual fund fees; and this according to none other than Posner.)))

Eliot Spitzer (srsly?) has a piece in Slate examining Chicago School free-marketeer Richard Posner's comments in a recent decision:
In an opinion dissenting from the "denial of rehearing en banc"—a sequence of words only a lawyer could love—Posner wrote that there are growing indications that CEO compensation "is excessive because of the feeble incentives of board of directors to police compensation. … Directors are often CEOs of other companies and naturally think that CEOs should be well paid. And often they are picked by the CEO." He then examined the conflicts inherent in the process of CEO compensation determination, concluding that "[c]ompetition ... can't be counted on to solve the problem because the same structure of incentives operates on all large corporations and similar entities, including mutual funds" [emphasis added]. [ . . . ]
In other words, there is precisely no check within the market, because the people deciding how much the CEO should make are the same people who stand to gain if CEOs are highly valued, or -- dare I say it? -- overvalued.

Spitzer continues:
Posner concluded that while judges shouldn't directly review corporate salaries, evidence of unreasonable compensation could be evidence of a breach of fiduciary duty. Yes, these are legal words, but they reveal a remarkable conclusion—courts should take a hard look at private-compensation issues—and demonstrate how far, and rapidly, the world has shifted.
So in other words, the solution is for courts to keep an eye on the situation and to consider compensation and fees in the context of, or as aspects of, the fiduciary duties of governing boards. So here come the activist judges once again threatening the American way of life, at least, if that's understood as the right to marry only someone of the opposite sex, or the right to make as much money as you can legally convince someone to pay you.

Isn't it ironic, though, that the activist judge in this case is Judge Posner? It sounds so Adam Smith, so old school capitalist, so . . . moral. So much of the socialist objection to capitalism is the tendency to socialize costs while privatizing profits (see the bailout), but here's Posner acknowledging that it's not all about how much money you can make.

The Wikipedia page on the Chicago School quotes this interesting little snippet from Posner: "[the central] meaning of justice, perhaps the most common is – efficiency… [because] in a world of scarce resources waste should be regarded as immoral." We don't have to agree with this conception of justice to see that, in its terms, CEO compensation and mutual fund fees have become essentially wasteful and, hence, immoral. And that the inability of the market to account for this means that the market is, to that extent, inefficient and, well, yeah: immoral.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Red(coat)s are Coming!

(((More accusations of "socialism;" if you don't actually say who you mean, you don't have to explain why your use of the term is accurate or appropriate, or maybe not even what you mean by it.)))

Politico.com has a note on Spencer Bachus' ominous hinting that the Soviet Union left behind plants in the US Congress to turn us commie long after the Old Girl bit the dust. They were so clever that way.

Unfortunately, Politico actually takes this somewhat seriously.

“Socialism” is one of the more elastic nouns in the political lexicon. In the broadest sense, it defines a system that provides for state ownership of some private industries and governmental commitments to providing direct housing, health care, education and income supports.

To many on the left, it’s a relatively benign — if outdated — term, representing an activist, interventionist government that prioritizes economic security over the unfettered freedom of the marketplace.

To many on the right, it’s practically an epithet — suggesting a return to Soviet-style Communism or a leap toward a hyper-regulated European brand of capitalism that stifles innovation and hikes taxes.
But this is already to cede too much ground to Bachus's rationality and integrity. It's not "practically an epithet;" it is an epithet. Calling someone a socialist in the US is roughly equivalent to standing up in church and saying that some people sitting in nearby pews worship the devil; or in this case, like someone in the choir saying there are some unnamed choir members who worship the devil. Everyone agrees devil worship is bad, or at least no one is going to go standing up for the devil, so instead of defending devil worship, everyone trips over themselves to prove they don't worship the devil. The accusation is already the damning evidence, so the burden of proof is on the accused.

Enter the godless [sic] commie.

But socialism is not devil worship. Unless maybe poverty, unemployment, illness, and the desire for a meaningful life outside of wage slavery are sins. In that case, sign me up with whoever calls bullshit.

Anyway, I don't think Bachus pulled that number out of his behind. I expect him to name his names. That's why he came out with a number. He knows who he's prepared to make some kind of case about. So let's have 'em.