I work from home, so when the internet stops working, I have a bad time. One such bad time was had throughout Missoula yesterday, when Charter internet service went down for the whole damn town. The Missoulian confirms the outage, but it doesn’t offer much else. Maybe that’s because even reporters can’t communicate with Charter except through their customer service call center, where a representative from the company would not say why the outage happened, when it would be fixed, how many customers were affected or what her own name was. Later in the day, a company spokesman declined to say most of the same things, although at least he offered his name. I hope the negative publicity from this failure doesn’t affect Charter’s busine—oh, right. They have a monopoly.
Wikileaks, the activist journalism/espionage organization run by creepy weirdo Julian Assange, has offered a $100,000 bounty for text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. I checked my computer, and I don’t have the .pdf. It turns out the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are secret. Details of the 12-nation agreement—reputed to restrict the sale of generic pharmaceuticals, constrain fair use of copyrighted materials, and created an international trade court where corporations can sue national governments—are secret. None of that stuff I just listed is necessarily true. Right now, the text of the TPP is available to members of Congress, who can read the treaty in a special room but are not allowed to discuss its contents publicly. Representatives of about 600 private companies can also access the document via a secret internet portal. The general public cannot.
The Dodd-Frank Act is not quite five years old, but it has already become an intolerable obstacle to the
American economy finance industry. Don’t worry: the finance, insurance and real estate industry spent $74 million on 704 registered lobbyists in the first three quarters of 2014. That’s a 2.5 percent increase in a year where every other industry’s lobbying expenditures went down. It was money well spent. Since mid-December, the House has voted to impose stricter cost-benefit analyses and judicial reviews on all enforcement agencies; today, it is expected to postpone enforcement of Dodd-Frank provisions and weaken related regulations on financial services. You didn’t think the finance industry would invest $74 million unwisely. I mean, what is this, 2008?
Let’s start with the good news: Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill that will avert government shutdown, ensure that schoolchildren are getting enough salt, and free cattle farmers from greenhouse gas regulations. I guess the good news stopped with the first clause in that list, but still—soluble government! It does come at a cost, though. Remember the financial collapse triggered by an unstable derivatives market that required a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout to correct? Trick question: we never corrected it. But banks are doing pretty well now, so they’re ready to leverage themselves into risky derivative trades again, and could they please do it with federal deposit insurance? Granted! Thus a key provision of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations is rolled back, and Congress recreates the conditions that preceded the worst economic collapse in three generations—falling gas prices and all.
Oh man: we’re just 36 hours away from the thrilling conclusion of the 2014 campaign season, when the voters of America will once again exercise total control over their governments. On an unrelated note, I enjoyed this article about the First Tuesday Luncheon Series, in which Republicans members of The Financial Service Committee meet “lobbyists from banks and insurance companies” for a monthly book club. One member of the committee picks the book, and everyone who shows up to discuss it donates to his campaign fund. Remember to vote tomorrow, so that the members of The Financial Services Committee do what you want. Otherwise, they’ll have to fall back on the paid lobbyists with whom they formed a book club.