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OpenMarket: John Berlau

  • Geithner confirmed -- but with bipartisan "nays"

    January 26, 2009
    The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Timothy F. Geithner tonight, but the vote was closer than expected with more "nays" than any previous nominee of President Barack Obama. The 60-34 confirmation was also the first nomination vote of the Obama administration with any Democrat voting no.

    Because of the nagging questions remaining about Geithner's failure to pay four years worth of self-employment taxes and his role in designing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, four members of the Democratic caucus joined with 30 Republicans in opposing Geithner's nomination. (10 Republicans unfortunately voted for him). Those four are Tom Harkin of Iowa, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the independent self-proclaimed socialist who usually caucuses with Democrats.

    "Had he not been nominated for treasury secretary, it's doubtful that he would have...
  • Milton Friedman counters Kennedy inaugural--and Obama's

    January 20, 2009
    Before President Barack Obama gave his inaugural address, it had been reported that he was heavily studying John F. Kennedy's speech at the inauguration in 1961. And no doubt Obama's "call to service" will be compared to Kennedy's inaugural that contained the famous lines: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

    On the good side, Obama did hail "doers" and "risk takers" in his speech and talked about how they have improved our way of life. That's important, given the bipartisan urge to stamp out all risk-taking in the wake of the financial crisis. Perhaps that's a good sign that will Obama...
  • Geithner should withdraw nomination for failure to pay self-employment taxes

    January 14, 2009
    Treasury Secretary Nominee Timothy Geithner's failure to pay four years' worth of self-employment taxes for Social Security and Medicare is absolutely astonishing. And as more details are released, Geithner's actions seem even more disturbing.

    According to the New York Times, Geithner still didn't correct the same type of error for some years, even after the Internal Reveue Services flagged him for the failure to pay the taxes in other years. To have him leading the department that manages the IRS would be a slap in the face to the millions of self-employed Americans who fulfill their responsiblities to correctly asses their tax burdens.

    These disturbing details paint a picture of a nominee who...
  • Madoff: Hiding in Plain Sight, Thanks to SEC

    December 28, 2008
    Contrary to popular belief, Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme was subject to to a variety of financial regulations, something he actually used as a selling point to investors. In fact, last year during a speech Madoff said, "In today's regulatory environment, it's virtually impossible to violate rules."
  • GM-Chrysler Merger Likely Blocked by Antitrust

    December 19, 2008
    General Motors & Chrysler could be strengthened by a merger, an option that wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime. But, the idea has been pushed aside, likely because of the hurdles of antitrust rules.
  • Why Not a Wal-Mart Bank?

    December 15, 2008
    Seems like every business these days is becoming what's called a "bank holding company" -- seeking the shelter of the federal government's deposit insurance and the ability to balance risks with more diversified lending and consumer deposits. Firms quickly granted "bank holding company" approval from authorities over the past few months range from the brokerages Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to credit card company American Express.

    So many businesses are suddenly getting BHC approval that columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin has joked: "MichelleMalkin.com is no longer a blog. I am putting in an application to the Fed to become a bank holding company, too."

    But ironically, many barriers still exist to legitimate retailers starting their own banking operations. Ever since Wal-Mart Stores Inc....
  • Antitrust Liberalization May Avert Need for Bailouts; Outdated Laws Deter Efficient Mergers

    December 14, 2008
    In early 2007, the economy was humming along and General Motors was considered to be in the process of a turnaround. To help stabilize itself, the company was considering buying its smaller, money-losing rival Chrysler.
  • Auto Bailout - Destroying Detroit by 'saving' it

    December 11, 2008
    In a famous quotation from his 1986 address to the annual White House Conference on Small Business, President Ronald Reagan quipped that "government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

    The Detroit bailout bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last night -- agreed to by the White House and Democratic leaders but at this point apparently without enough Republican support to survive a filbuster in the Senate -- is unique in that it fulfills all three of the government actions Reagan describes in one fell swoop. All it once it not only subsidizes U.S. automakers, it subjects them to heavy regulation as well...
  • Claim of consumers' fear of auto bankruptcy a canard in bailout debate

    December 8, 2008
    Eli, in answer to the blog post you phrased as a question, the argument from the individual you heard, echoed by other Big 3 execs, is not a valid point in support of a bailout.

    Their claim that consumers won't buy from an automaker in bankruptcy is a specious argument. Yes, some won't, but many consumers also are not going to buy cars from companies perceived to be so weak that they have to beg for a bailout from the government. A company's clutching to a government lifeline to keep from going bankrupt wouldn't be that much different for many car buyers than an actual bankruptcy.

    This is particularly true if the government forces the companies, as a condition of the bailout, to make "environmentally correct" cars that no one really wants. A company emerging from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, by...
  • Berlau on Air America today -- debating deregulation on Thom Hartmann

    December 4, 2008
    Today at noon Eastern time, I will enter the lion's den.

    I will be live in the New York City studios of liberal network Air America having a friendly discussion about deregulation on The Thom Hartmann Program. Hartmann, author of books such as ""Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class," usually broadcasts form Oregon, and when I'm guest I have joined him by phone. But today, he's broadcasting form the home office and I will be joining him live and in person.

    Hartmann is tough but friendly, and the last couple times I've been on his show, we've actually sort of agreed on the issues. The civil libertarian in him and me both strongly objected to the...

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