Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bubby, "Dark Markets", Crooked Republicans, and $4.00 Gasoline - Yee-Haw!

Everywhere I go, people want to talk about high fuel prices. It's like the weather, only ugly. Mostly it's like talking to someone with a substance abuse problem - part frantic worry about how to afford it, part angry self-hate, part la-la land about finding more, more, more.

So I have a confession. High oil prices are my fault. Well not entirely my fault, I have been assisted by Anti-Regulation Republicans and their corrupt Republican fixers. Here is how we fixed the system to assure that your dependence on petroleum profited us - me and my group of Republican Fixers, Insiders, and Think-Tankers:

First me: I pay really smart people to manage my investments. They hop-to and make certain that my money never lingers in a bad investment, and always provides a good return. They understand that I require high performance, am willing to pay for it, and if they don't deliver, I will hold them responsible. We have a beautiful relationship. But investors are facing a "Bear" market. That means it is getting tougher to make money in the traditional markets. Even a cow goes dry from time to time.

We were reviewing my investments the other day and I noticed that in addition to my money growing mold in a bank account, I was heavy into "commodities". I asked my investment adviser what "commodities" he had me into, and he listed a group of "materials" like metals and food but noted that mostly I'm in Oil. Big oil, foreign oil, future oil. "So how we doing", I asked. "Great", he said, "it is keeping your portfolio balanced against losses in that Amazon tree farm you insisted I invest in". Thank you oil-addicted America! Your unrelenting demand for petroleum assures that I can buy and sell every gallon at a profit, and you will be back knocking at my door for more soon.

Now my Republican Cronies: Phil Gramm is advising John McCain on his economic policies- which is why McCain has flopped over on things like tax policy, deregulation, and the oil business. Have you heard of "McCain's Economic Brain", Phil Gramm? He was a Republican Senator from Texas until 2002, and the powerful chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. One of his last acts a Chairman was to deregulate most of the "Commodities" markets. Gramm placed a provision in a law (Commodities Futures Modernization Act) in 2000 that exempted electronic trading from regulation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). That is where oil and other energy commodities (natural gas, electricity) get traded these days, and since no one is watching (regulating), no one can tell you what is going on with $140 per barrel oil. This unregulated "Dark Market" is invisible to most people, particularly to the government regulators that you probably think are looking after your best interests. It is called the International Commodities Exchange or "ICE" and that is where my people, with the help of Crooked Republican fixers like Phil Gramm do their business - far from the light of day.

Remember Enron? You know that criminal enterprise cloaked as a corporation down in Texas? Enron lobbied Phil Gramm hard (campaign money) to get energy trading market deregulated, and when they got what they wanted from his Senate committee in 2000 they had most of their Business Plan complete. Enron had previously gotten a lot of help from a powerful Republican bureaucrat, Phil Gramm's wife- Wendy Gramm. She was an economist who brought her husbands zeal for deregulating markets to Washington when Ronald Reagan hired her at his Office of Management and Budget in the 1980's. Reagan called Wendy Gramm his "favorite economist" and named her Chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC). .

One of Wendy's final actions as CTFC Chair (in January 1993, the last month of Daddy Bush's presidency) was to remove energy derivatives contracts and interest-rate swaps from federal oversight. Weeks later Wendy Gramm went to work as a member of the Enron Board of Directors helping Enron make millions from California utility customers by manipulating deregulated "dark markets". She was also a member of the Enron audit committee - the group that certified the accounting that later proved to be smoke and mirrors. A professional fixer!

Phil Gramm retired from the Senate in 2002, and went to work for UBS - the large multinational bank that has recently been implicated in the real estate mortgage scams. So it looks like "McCain's Economic Brain" has a trifecta to his credit; deregulated oil markets, Enron, and the mortgage meltdown.

Don't worry about Phil and Wendy. They are comfortably wealthy, and well served by John McCain's flip flop to support Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.

Don't worry about me either. I can be out of those electronically-traded exchange fund, "Dark oil markets" quicker than you can swipe your credit card at the gas pump. And please, tell your representatives to drill everywhere, now - my people need more oil to trade, and we're betting you can't kick the habit anytime soon. If the oil bubble bursts before we squeeze oil from Alaska and off the coast of Virginia, I'll be back in the market to buy that oil cheap, and we'll start the bidding again. You know you want it. You know you need it! Drill. Please!

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