Monday, February 04, 2013

The Unfair Trade - Michael J. Casey

The Unfair Trade

How Our Broken Financial System Destroys the Middle Class

Michael J. Casey

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

Michael J. Casey is not an economist. He is a journalist. All through the book, I kept searching for his credentials. I could not believe that I was reading an economist. I looked him up again and I am very happy to confirm my notion that this fellow could not possibly be an economist. I don’t know where I ever got that idea.

Mr. Casey is a journalist and he works for the Wall Street Journal and something called the Dow Jones (Business and financial review, I presume.)

I looked him up before I requested this book. That should have been warning enough for the likes of my kind but I ordered the book nevertheless.

The title of the book “The Unfair Trade” and the subtitle “How Our Broken System Destroys the Middle Class” led me to believe that this book would defend the notion that Globalism is destroying the American middle class and explain the “how” of it all from the author’s perspective.

After reading this book, I did not find it to be a criticism of globalism. The author has found numerous problems with globalism but offers instead more, bigger and better, Globalism as the cure.

He had the same problem with the free market concept. He wants to tweak and adjust it to “level the playing field.” Well I don’t mean to be overly critical but if that is done, it is my understanding that we no longer have a free market utopian village, guided by the invisible hand of self regulation and automatic adjustment. We have a managed economy if not a totally communistic planned economy.

As for the middle class, I don’t feel that it is the American middle class that this author is concerned about, or the European middle class for that matter. It might be the middle class of Ethiopia or Paraguay but not America or Europe as far as I could tell.

Let me take you to the back of the book to Mr. Casey’s chapter on solutions.

“The United States’ long term fiscal challenges are indeed daunting. Future obligations of Medicare, Social Security and other retirement programs showed total unfunded liabilities of 62 trillion as of 2009, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, or $540,000 in claims per household. With baby boomers now leaving the workforce, these liabilities will inevitably precipitate a crisis if they aren’t reduced, an exercise that will weigh on growth for years, probably decades. Such is the price to be paid for the credit binge of the previous decade and for the transition the country must make from a financial economy to a productive one in which exports play a more fundamental role … My view: convince retirees, those with the most distorting electoral clout, of the counterintuitive but truthful notion that their long term interests lie in having their entitlements reduced. If the burden of paying for them is instead borne by the young, the productive generation on which our future depends and the groups hardest hit by the 2008 crisis all will be held back…”

Peter G. Peterson? The multi-billionaire who has had a long going campaign to destroy not only Medicare but Social Security, unemployment and any and all programs involving a safety net for any American, young or old? Is it from this man’s right wing, propaganda outlet that Mr. Casey is quoting?

Yes it is.

Neither the author nor Mr. Peterson seems to have heard that Social Security is an insurance program that is funded by contributions and has nothing to do with the deficit or the National Debt or the current fiscal crises. In fact, Social Security is solvent for a couple of decades and presents no immediate problems never mind a crisis.

It also has a very, very easy fix for the future. Remove the cap (another form of subsidy to the wealthy) and the future of our children is also secure … almost forever.

Medicare’s problem is with rising health care costs. Control the costs and extend the coverage – single payer universal care for everybody would be my preference.

I have this book filled with notes written in the margins and at the bottom of many pages.

I don’t really feel it will be worth my time or yours to quote more from this author’s text. Let me write here a few of my random notes, just for laughs.

1) Intermingled Contingent Liabilities: Brokers were allowed to make risky deals but yet cover their butts by betting against their own future success. This led to fraudulent transactions where deals were cut solely for the purpose of collecting on their counter bets.

2) The author gives a basic Republican explanation of economic collapse but does not credit here the corrupt financial and business practices. Instead he blames the Fed, Fannie and Freddie for allowing the theft and fraud to happen. Rather ridiculous. It is like blaming a bank for tempting bank robbers with their locked vaults full of money. Better education, better jobs and higher wages for the next generation will pick up and counter future tax increases – not cutting workers, firing people and lower salaries. Austerity is the wrong answer for a depressed economy. Wait until inflation becomes a problem. Now is the time for spending not cutting.

3) China must surrender Communism and become a Capitalist country in order to participate in the many benefits of the author’s suggested new and revised globalism? Is he nuts? And they say the liberals are the utopian dreamers.

4) Once again the author blames America and Americans for the problems, not the “system” or the rich investment community that corrupted it.

5) The author talks of the creation of new industries and improved technology in BRIC countries but does not mention the directly related losses in jobs and industries here at home. Author also forgets to mention that China, Brazil and Russia are making all these wonderful gains under Socialist rule … not capitalist.
And so it goes.

I regret that I wasted so much of my valuable time rehashing all this, for the most part, right wing dribble when I could have been reading something important.

If I regret reading this book myself, how can I recommend it to anyone else? Sorry.

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