Buenos Aires on the Potomac

Three data points, not directly related to each other, but all illuminative of the same movements and currents, and all betraying precisely the same cast of mind among the governing:

The Argentine government some time ago fired all the real economists who were tracking their country’s slide into chaos. Since then they’ve been diligently cooking the books in the form of, among other tricks, under-reporting the inflation that’s already hitting 25% by some estimates. Now what they’ve done is impose a price freeze on groceries. Other than emptying the grocery store shelves (everyone will rush to buy before the freeze is lifted, and the stores will be unable to re-stock because no one is going to sell to them at a price they can recoup), the big question is what happens when the freeze’s initially announced term expires? Will it be lifted or extended? In either event look for absolute chaos; the current 25% inflation rate will soon appear tame in comparison. 

And in North Argentina, along the Potomac River, Eric Holder’s Dept. of Justice and Vote Creativity has announced a billion-dollar lawsuit against the ratings agencies . . . for opinions they expressed four and five years ago. Why now? Why so long? Wasn’t it readily apparent by late 2007 that their rosy ratings of, among others, Fannie and Freddie paper were wildly off the mark? Has it truly taken this long to subpoena all their records to determine exactly how it was they got it so comically incorrect? Exactly how many issues were rated that later tanked? 

Can it have anything to do with the fact that those same ratings agencies have already down-graded U.S. Treasury paper once, and have promised to do so again, just in recent weeks? The initial report admitted that the DOJ had threatened criminal prosecution if the ratings agencies didn’t agree to fork over massive amounts of money (the NYT website scrubbed the report of the extortion from its post . . . better living through screen capture, however). So where is the criminal prosecution? Oh yeah, that’s right: The DOJ knew going into it they didn’t have a criminal case. They just thought they’d practice a little extortion. 

These claims are of course likely to be settled short of trial. What will be interesting to see is where the settlement funds get steered. When Bank of America got to pony up $25 million to settle a Community Reinvestment Act enforcement action – on the basis that it had made insufficient loans to people unlikely to be able to repay them, at a time when they were also being accused of “predatory lending,” which is the making of loans to people who aren’t likely to be able to repay them – several million of the settlement was steered to “community organizing”-style outfits no small number of which had ties to former or current ACORN spin-offs. In other words, Dear Leader’s DOJ used the power of the federal government to extort money from its mountebank whipping boys for the direct use and benefit of its political supporters. 

Back in the 1930s, the Soviet Union conducted a census. This was a few years after the Holodomor, when Stalin set out to, and did, starve some seven million Ukrainians to death in the space of less than two years. The census takers showed several million fewer Soviets than Stalin thought he should have. So he had the entire census bureau senior staff and management shot, and appointed new ones. Told them to go run him a census and mirabile dictu! all those millions of missing Soviets magically reappeared. 

Moscow, Buenos Aires, Washington: What’s the difference (to quote a renowned former Sec’y of State) any more?


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