A 'rare' bi-partisan success...

Dec 16, 2014

Washington, DC

Dear Diary,

Dow down 99 points yesterday. Gold lost $28.

Stocks have been slipping all over the world, especially in Europe. But so far, there is no sign of panic. That will come later.

We're spending this week in Washington, zombie watching.

Yesterday, we spent the evening in the lobby of the old Willard hotel. A choir sang carols.

"Hark the herald, angels sing.
"Glory to the newborn king...

In one corner, a group of cronies sat negotiating a deal; whose ox they were goring, we don't know. Pairs of women sipped their champagne and nibbled their cookies. A few tourists gawked at the splendor of it...a Christmas tree worthy of Yosemite...ceilings rivaling those of the Louvre. Your editor, his laptop in hand one hand, a glass of cabernet in the other, sat in a corner, enjoying the singing and inconspicuously recording events.

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Politics is the leading industry in this town; when Jamie Dimon was on line on Friday, the other end of the line was here.

Here's a letter from one of our own dear readers with the story:

...the US House passed a bill repealing the Dodd-Frank requirement that risky derivatives be pushed into big-bank subsidiaries, leaving our deposits and pensions exposed to massive derivatives losses. The bill was vigorously challenged by Senator Elizabeth Warren; but the tide turned when Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase, stepped into the ring. Perhaps what prompted his intervention was the unanticipated $40 drop in the price of oil. As financial blogger Michael Snyder points out, that drop could trigger a derivatives payout that could bankrupt the biggest banks.

Compared to New York, Washington is remarkably quiet. Not too much traffic yesterday. Few people on the streets in the downtown area. It was quiet, calm, peaceful...like the beginning of a horror movie.

Our hotel here has a completely different clientele and atmosphere from little boutique hotel we stayed in last week. In Lower Manhattan, we saw hipsters and artists...publishers and filmmakers. Everyone seemed young and fashionable. The shops were busy with today's commerce. The old buildings - with their industrial windows and loading docks -- recalled yesterday's.

Washington is, on the other hand, as timeless as prostitution. Here, men still wear business suits and ties. Women are not quite as chic as New Yorkers. All look as though they take themselves too seriously, as if the future of the planet depended on what they do today. They must be trying to compensate for the fact that their work - and their lives - are essentially parasitic and pointless.

They come and go in the hotel lobby. One is off to try to pull a little pork out of a Nebraska senator. Another is looking for help with a Pentagon contract. They are all zombies, we reckon, all getting without giving anything of any real value.

Jamie Dimon must be a hero to this crowd. He is not in politics...and not even a full-fledged master of zombie arts. After all, he must spend some of his time at JP Morgan offering real services, or at least the appearance of them, in order to get clients to part with their money.

But on Friday, he did the rest of the nation a grave disservice. In helping to push Republicans and Democrats to a scammy bi-partisan budget bill, he helped keep the lights on in Washington.

Yes, the federal government was getting ready to shut down. And then Dimon got on the phone. It was probably a 'tit for tat' payback. The feds helped keep his lights on in 2008. Now, he has repaid the favor

Colleague Dan Denning, newly returned from 10 years in Australia is appalled. He was a Congressional page 25 years ago. All of the twisted roots he saw sink into the DC earth in the '80s have now grown into full-sized trash trees...and now cast their long shadows over Washington...and the nation.

It was in the beginning of the '80s that David Stockman lost his famous battle for the soul of the Republican Party. He thought it should remain true to its best traditions and should demand balanced federal budgets. But the progressive wing of the GOP was more interested in winning elections and distributing pork than in fiscal rectitude. The Reagan administration went on to run some of the biggest deficits in history.

And that was just the beginning.

Among the bits of grease in the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed Saturday night was a provision allowing the cronies to give up to $230,000 each to the Republicans and Democrats. This will help cement their control of the political process.

It was a win-win deal. Dimon got something. And the feds got something. That must be why the Wall Street Journal labeled it a "rare bi-partisan success." We understand the bi-partisan success part. It's the 'rare' part we don't understand.

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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