A $13 Billion JP Morgan Settlement Is Fine, But Let’s Put ‘Em In Jail

JP Morgan Ceo

The Article: The $13 Billion JPMorgan Settlement Is a Good Start—Now Someone Should Go to Jail by William Greider in The Nation.

The Text: JPMorgan Chase, the star of mega-banks, is up against the wall at the Justice Department, trying to settle its myriad crimes for $13 billion. That’s real money, even for a trillion-dollar bank. So this is progress. After years of scandalous indifference, the Obama administration appears to have found its backbone.

Better late than never, grumpy citizens can say. But that doesn’t settle the matter. Four years ago, Senator Ted Kaufman of Delaware crisply described the more fundamental problem posed by the wantonly reckless behemoths of Wall Street.

“People know that if they rob a bank they will go to jail,” Kaufman said. “Bankers should know that if they rob people they will go to jail too.” Can we hear an amen on that? Not yet. But the complaint Kaufman voiced repeatedly is now on the table. “At the end of the day,” the senator warned, “This is a test of whether we have one justice system in this country or two. If we do not treat a Wall Street firm that defrauded investors of millions of dollars the same way we treat someone who stole $500 from a cash register, then how can we expect our citizens to have any faith in the rule of law?”

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OMG: Is Toms Shoes Finally Helping The Poor?

Toms Shoes

The Article: Is TOMS Shoes Listening to its Critics? by Joshua Keating in Slate.

The Text: TOMS comes in for a lot more criticism from academics and international development types than your average trendy footwear purveyor thanks to its trademark BOGO—“buy-one-give-one”—model: for every pair of shoes you buy, TOMS donates a similar pair to someone in a developing country. (The company recently expanded into eyewear using a similar model.)

The feel-good marketing of TOMS has been one of the keys to its success, but many critics charge that in-kind donation programs are an inefficient way of helping people in need compared to simply donating money to dedicated antipoverty programs, and that dumping donated clothing in poor countries can actually hinder economic growth by undercutting local producers. (TOMS shoes are donated to over 50 countries but produced only in China, Argentina, and Ethiopia.)

Moreover, TOMS shoes reportedly often simply turn up for sale in markets in the countries where they are donated. (TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie has also taken flack for working with the controversial Christian group Focus on the Family.)

But there are some recent signs that TOMS is starting to get the message. The company announced recently that it will open a factory in Haiti, paying what it says will be “competitive” wages to 50 Haitian workers. According to Public Radio International, Mycoskie has also pledged that by 2015, the company will produce one-third of its shoes in the countries where they are being donated.

There are still good questions to be raised about whether clothing donations are a helpful form of aid at all. One 2008 study, for instance, found that used clothing imports accounted for 50 percent decline in employment in the African apparel sector. Employing apparel workers in developing countries could simply be counteracting a problem that TOMS is itself contributing to.

To give credit where it’s due, the company does seem to be starting to think about its impact more seriously. But compared to, say, donating $50 to a reputable charity, buying a $50 pair of canvas sneakers probably still won’t be the most effective way to help people in need.

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The US Is The Best Healthcare System…For The Drug Industry

Prescription Drugs

The Article: The U.S. Has the Best Health Care System in the World—for Drug Companies by Scott Martelle in TruthDig.

The Text: Just in case you weren’t sure, yes, the United States’ market approach to health care is a cash spigot—and a bit of a fraud, given how much pharmaceutical firms have gamed the system. And your wallets are the wellspring for all that cash.

Back-to-back stories in The New York Times dive into just two areas of excess: sweetheart deals between doctors and finance firms that set interest rates at what used to be usury levels, and the exorbitant amount of money drug companies charge U.S. patients compared with prices overseas. From the Times’ Sunday story:

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These Are The 144 Republicans Who Voted For Default

Paul Ryan Budget 4

The Article: Here Are The 144 Republicans Who Voted To Send The US Into Default by Henry Blodget in Business Insider.

The Text: After a disgraceful 16-day government shutdown in which many members of Congress threatened to force the United States of America to default on its obligations, a short-term deal has finally been cut.

It’s not a long-term deal, of course.

In fact, it’s not even a medium-term deal.

It’s a two or three-month deal.

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Obama, The Smallest Government Spender Since Ike

Barack Obama

The Article: Who Is The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It’s Barack Obama? by Rick Ungar in Forbes.

The Text: It’s enough to make even the most ardent Obama cynic scratch his head in confusion.

Amidst all the cries of Barack Obama being the most prolific big government spender the nation has ever suffered, Marketwatch is reporting that our president has actually been tighter with a buck than any United States president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Who knew?

Check out the chart –

Spending Rate

So, how have the Republicans managed to persuade Americans to buy into the whole “Obama as big spender” narrative?

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