Czarist Russia is looking better and better. Once a byword for bureaucratic absolutism, the apparatchiks of pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg and their endless rule-making seem positively enlightened beside some of the pieces of aptly named omnibus legislation emanating from Capitol Hill these days. The newly passed Dodd-Frank Financial Regulation Bill may be the worst yet. At 2,315 pages and 390,000 words, the bill is half the size of the entire King James Bible. It stretches credulity to believe that America’s political leaders now enact single pieces of legislation many times the size of the entire Mosaic code. But they do.
On Thursday, October 24, 1907, Wall Street was in turmoil. Crowds of spectators gathered to watch panicked bankers and their lackeys rushing about, desperately trying to halt the financial hemorrhaging of what would be known in the history books as the Panic of 1907. Outside one troubled bank, the Trust Company of America — where J. P. Morgan himself worked frantically behind the scenes to keep the institution solvent — long lines of angry depositors waited, hands jammed in pockets in the chill autumn air, to retrieve their deposited monies. No one knew whether the beleaguered bank, which Morgan had declared to be “the place to stop the trouble,” would have enough funds to survive the run.
Years of big spending by politicians at all levels have left the nation vulnerable to economic turmoil. While at the federal level this is masked to a degree by manipulation and inflation of the money supply, among other factors, local and state governments have no such luxury, and many are struggling to find ways to pay increasingly high expenses. Increasingly, the onus is falling on taxpayers in the form of increased and burdensome taxes, and on public-sector employees who face reductions in benefits, and possibly layoffs.
Public-employee labor unions have long been an unchecked tap upon the public treasury. Sometimes these unions have an aura of moral purpose, like police and firefighters' unions. Others work in hospitals or teach in schools, positions that have historically been viewed sympathetically by many Americans. Other unions, like garbage collectors and water-line workers, could cause immediate and serious harm to the public, if they went on strike.
The Gulf oil spill has caused serious economic problems. Fisherman and those in the tourist industry have been hard hit by the oil spill itself. Those who work on oil rigs have been hard hit by the politically correct and utterly irrational cessation of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Tens of thousands of workers are set to lose their jobs, this in a time of high unemployment and economic downturn.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just released its employment figures for the month of May, and they would appear to be very encouraging indeed: 431,000 new jobs were created, and the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent. President Obama hailed this as proof that his economic policies are succeeding, saying, “This report is a sign that our economy is getting stronger by the day.”
Bank closures throughout the United States continue to be telling of the state of the economy. Friday witnessed the closing of three more banks in Florida and one in Nevada and California, totaling 78 failed banks in this year alone.
The Senate Thursday night passed its long-awaited financial reform bill, another critical plank in President Obama’s New Deal-esque agenda to bring the private sector under more comprehensive and stifling control by the federal government and Federal Reserve. Touted as the biggest piece of financial reform since the Great Depression, the bill, crafted primarily by retiring Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd (D), faces only reconciliation with a similar bill passed by the House last December before being sent to the President for his signature.
With a congressional battle brewing over what is being touted as the biggest attempt at financial regulatory reform since the Great Depression, most pundits are predicting that, despite token Republican opposition, some version of the bill that originated with Senator Chris Dodd’s Finance Committee will soon pass. Senate Republicans blocked the first attempt to bring the matter to a vote on April 19, but Democrats and the Obama administration vowed to continue to press wavering Republicans to support the bill.