It looks like we have had some good news--the Senate passed Financial Reform (FinReg as the economic talking heads have dubbed it) and BP has finally installed a cap on that well that seems to be working. How good the news is will depend on how things shake out in the future. Much of the regulation the financial reforms mandate are still to be worked out by various agencies. I don't really place much faith in the regulations to prevent another financial crisis. Like generals who are always planning for the last war, our politicians are always looking to prevent the last crisis. I have absolutely no doubt that the next one will blind side most of us, just like the last one did. As far as BP goes--I hope the new well head holds till the relief wells are in place and that they work.
Ryan Grim at HuffingtonPost has a nice summary of the reform package. I hope Elizabeth Warren gets the nomination as the head of that new consumer protection agency even though this Shahien Nasiripour, also at HuffingtonPost, thinks that unlikely--she has been much too tough on Tim Geitner and his Treasury Department as well as much too critical of the big boys on Wall Street. I think we need a strong consumer protection agency headed by a tough and vigorous activist. Why you wonder can't we just insist that consumers exercise their responsibility to be informed and protect their own interests themselves? Well, they should but that notion has a serious flaw. We were watching a CNN program on the counterfeiting problem this week. One of the early segments was pretty much as expected--counterfeit designer bags, shoes, etc. What struck us is how easily we might be fooled into buying the counterfeits. We wouldn't go for the Coach or other brands specifically. We would be looking for a bag that meets our purposes and price range. Because we aren't interested in making a fashion statement we aren't as knowledgeable about what might or might not be a knock off AND we aren't interested in spending our time researching that aspect of our purchase. Also, dealing with a reputable vendor isn't a guarantee--some months ago one of the local big box stores was caught selling fakes. Another part of the counterfeit story actually scares us a bit--the segment on medical counterfeits. These can be deadly.
However, aside from the problem with counterfeits, we face other hidden dangers as consumers which no amount of research or active investigation can prevent. How many people fed their pets the melamine-laced foods last year? A number of reputable manufacturers were involved because they got a tainted ingredient from a Chinese supplier. My pets could have easily been victims--all I would have had to do was pick up one brand instead of the one I usually pick up.
Or consider, the number of food recalls we have had. You decide to go to a fast food restaurant for a treat. Suddenly you have a nasty case of food poisoning because the lettuce (or tomatoes, or peppers, or spinach, or God only know what) were contaminated. The restaurant, the party you deal with, also had no way of knowing.
Michael Whitney at Firedoglake posted this article this morning. If this is true, the entire management of Massey Energy, from Don Blankenship down, should be indicted for murder.