Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street’

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Apparently, the door between Wall Street and the U.S. government agencies in charge of regulating Wall Street continues to revolve. Former Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke is the latest to walk through the door.

For eight years, Ben S. Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chairman, was steward of the world’s largest economy. Now he has signed on to advise one of Wall Street’s biggest hedge funds.

Mr. Bernanke will become a senior adviser to Citadel, the $25 billion hedge fund founded by the billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin. He will offer his analysis of global economic and financial issues to Citadel’s investment committees. He will also meet with Citadel’s investors around the globe.

It is the latest and most prominent move by a Washington insider through the revolving door into the financial industry. Investors are increasingly looking for guidance on how to navigate an uncertain economic environment in the aftermath of the financial crisis and are willing to pay top dollar to former officials like Mr. Bernanke.

Mr. Bernanke joins a long parade of colleagues and peers to Wall Street and investment firms. After stepping down, Mr. Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan, was recruited as a consultant for Deutsche Bank, the bond investment firm Pacific Investment Management Company and the hedge fund Paulson & Company.

Last month, Jeremy C. Stein, a former Fed governor, agreed to join the $20 billion hedge fund BlueMountain Capital Management, where he will advise managers on issues like financial regulation, risk and the implications of the Fed’s monetary policy. Mr. Stein resigned from the Fed last May to return to his tenured professorship at Harvard’s department of economics.

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CAsFzZFWEAAwvIE Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon - tt_c_c150326.tif

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161923_600 Poverty-Wages

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The largest university in the United States—the University of Phoenix, part of the Apollo Education Group [ht: ja]—has been given an F by Wall Street investors. Its stock tumbled almost 30 percent in today’s trading.

A key problem is that, while for-profit colleges only enroll roughly 12 percent of the nation’s students, students at those colleges accounted for about half of student loan defaults in 2013. And, as we know, the quality of education continues to be dismal.

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Student enrollments and revenues have thus been falling in recent years. Degreed enrollment in the Apollo Education Group was most recently 227,400 students, less than half its own peak five years ago and down 13.5 percent from the first quarter of fiscal 2014. This year it will be lucky to take in $2.7 billion, although it had revenues close to $5 billion in 2010.

This would be the perfect time for public colleges and universities to attract many of the students who are leaving the for-profit sector of higher education. The problem is, public institutions are behaving more and more like their for-profit counterparts, being forced to rely more and more on tuition payments from students, who are taking on increasing levels of debt, instead of public financing.

In that sense, the country as a whole deserves an F for its failure to provide high-quality, affordable higher education to its citizens.

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Milanovic

This chart, devised by Branko Milanovic, illustrates the remarkable economic recovery that has taken place in the United States beginning in 2010—a recovery, that is, not for the vast majority of people, but for a tiny minority at the top.

Consider the first period (blue line). It is remarkable that real income of all groups declined. But the hardest hit were the rich, with percentage losses increasing as we move toward to right portion of the graph, and the very poor.  I am not an expert on US welfare system, but it seems to me that the system failed to protect the poorest people from substantial income losses between 2007 and 2010. But for the bulk of the population, the years of the Great Recession meant a modest real income decline. The median person’s real income went down by a little over 3 percent. The upper middle class (the people between the 80th and 90th percentiles) did not see much change in their real income. But the top 10% clearly lost out: notice how the blue line starts decreasing ever more steeply as you move toward the top 1%. The Gini coefficient decreased by less than 1 point.

Now, look at the red line which shows the real change in the second period. It is almost a mirror-image of what happened in the first. The growth was zero or positive along the entire distribution, the strongest among the very poor (around the lowest 5th percentile) and among the rich (the top 10%). Median inflation-adjusted per capita income decreased by just under 1%. For the two top percentiles, which got clobbered by the recession, real income growth was in excess of 10%.

In other words, those at the very bottom lost a great deal during and immediately after the crash and, as a result of special measures (like an expansion of the food stamp program and increases in state minimum wages), they’ve managed to claw back some of what they lost—and they’re still poor. For pretty much everyone else, they lost out (as a result of growing unemployment and stagnant wages) and they still haven’t recovered (even though the unemployment rate has declined but their wages are still pretty much where they were before the crash). And those at the top? They lost a great deal (because of the initial decline in corporate profits and the stock market crash) and, as a result of the nature of the recovery (which has successfully restored the profits of large corporations and Wall Street equities), have now recovered most of what they lost—and they’re still rich.

So, after a brief hiatus (in 2009), the United States is back to having the most unequal distribution of income of all the rich countries on the planet.

And, unless things change (and I don’t mean the Fed’s tinkering with interest rates or one or another corporation raising wages above the federal minimum), that obscenely unequal distribution of income is only going to continue to get worse.