Don’t Get Me Started, Regulars and Shorts

Don’t Get Me Started: Unlucky 7

By John deJong

Beware of #7; ALSO…the $700 billion bailout.
by John deJong
Unlucky Seven

It’s time to start checking the recycling code on packaged food products before you buy. Not so you’ll know how to dispose of the packaging but so you can steer clear of packaging with the number seven on it. Such packaging is likely to contain Bisphenol A (BPA), the plastic ingredient recently tied to higher rates of diabetes and heart disease in a study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The highest levels of BPA were associated with triple the risk of heart disease and 2.43 times the risk of diabetes.

The bad news on BPA was proceeded by good news from the Food and Drug Administration. Beating publication of the bad news by one day, Bush-era FDA appointee Laura Tarantino told reporters, "Right now, our tentative conclusion is that it [BPA] is safe, so we’re not recommending any change in habits." Though she did tell consumers how they could change their habits.

In a typical case of the Bush administration versus science, all evidence against BPA comes from reputable scientific organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and the Journal of the American Medical Association, while nearly all evidence favoring BPA comes from industry-funded, and most often designed, studies.

One of the most confounding aspects to research into environmental pollutants is the paradoxical dose/response curve of many pollutants. Where a little bit of a chemical has no effect, a little more has a large effect and a really large dose again has little or no effect. Finding that "sweet spot" can be difficult, even if you’re looking for it, as our regulatory agencies should be doing. And it can be entirely possible to miss, like the "well designed" industry-funded studies.

Relying on rats

The FDA argues that the studies it relied on, on rats and mice, were more thorough than some of the studies on humans. Oh-kay!

This brings us to the first rule of psuedo-scientific obsphuckation. When the studies on rats and mice show no harm, use the rat and mice studies, and when the studies on humans show no harm, use the human studies.

Rule Two: Concede that further research is needed before any action is taken, even if you’re talking about deadly diseases in epidemic proportions. Especially if the industry in question is one of your big campaign contributors.

Rule Three: Don’t answer the question. If you’re asked about the effects of BPA on heart disease and diabetes, cite studies on cancer and reproductive abnormalities. Rule 3 A: make sure it’s the industry-funded studies you do cite.

Rule Four: Argue the link between cause and effect. It is, after all, possible-in some alternate universe where physicists posit alternative universes with 13 dimensions-that heart disease and diabetes cause their sufferers to use more BPA-containing products than the average citizen.

Rule Five: Don’t cite your sources. Or make some vague allusion to all of the studies-the ones that haven’t been purged from your bureaucracy’s data base-that prove the "safety" of the pollutant in question.

Unlucky $700 Billion

The Bush administration and Republicans in Congress sat on their hands for seven years chanting "free markets" as Wall Street sold banks around the world a couple of trillion dollars’ worth of pigs in a poke-the so-called "mortgage backed [in]securities" the Bush administration now wants to start buying from a bunch of idiot bankers.

Idiot like a fox. At some point Wall Street bankers must have realized the pile of shit had gotten so big that a government bailout was inevitable. What do you think they did then? Doubled down? Gave themselves bonuses? Plumped up their retirement package? Or took an already-plump early retirement?

What the Secretary of the Treasury will be trying to sell us is about as pure a pile of steaming turds as the investment wizards on Wall Street could concoct. The mortgage-backed securities in question constitute essentially the entire risk that a couple of million credit-unworthy people won’t make it past the second anniversary of their mortgages, particularly when the interest payments balloon. All of the real cash flow was siphoned off a couple of years ago and is safely invested elsewhere or is being churned-selling when the market is high, then buying two weeks or two days later when the market is low-by the very people who profited so handsomely from the initial sale of this pile.

If you’ve ever wondered where all those economics PhDs are working-I know I have-they’ve got jobs in the wealth care industry predicting the timing of market gyrations so that the too-well-to-do won’t miss a year of record profits. And I’m not talking vinyl.

Talk of the bailout costing Ameri_can taxpayers any less than the full $700 billion is another steaming pile. The bill, as originally drafted, allows the Secretary of the Treasury to own $700 billion at any one time. That means taxpayers will be signing a virtual blank check. When the Secretary sells the first $700 billion worth of shit, he can go out and buy another $700 billion. Which might be okay if he got a dollar on a dollar. But if he gets only $70 billion for the first pile (10 cents on the dollar-which by some estimates is optimistic) he’ll need another $630 billion for the second mound. Guess where that’s coming from.

Is this the 2008 version of the Republicans’ perennial election year October Surprise? Or do they have something else in their bag of dirty tricks?

What-a trick? Dawdle and stall all summer long until one week before Congress adjourns for the elections and spring the financial equivalent of the War on Terrorism blank check on them. If they don’t go along, they’ll be portrayed as sabotaging the economy. Never mind that the Bush administration deserves the blame.

For its final act, the Bush administration is looking to sell American taxpayers $700 billion of worthless paper that no sensible investor would touch with a 10-foot pole.

The result of the $700 billion bail out will be that the next seven generations of the Wall Street wizards, who brewed up this mess, will be in the clover, while seven generations of American taxpayers will pay the bills. And John McCain doesn’t want to raise taxes on the rich.

John deJong is associate publisher of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on September 30, 2008.