80 years ago today, on October 29th, 1929, Wall Street saw the worst day in its history. The shock of "Black Tuesday" came to an end, but the misery of the Republican Great Depression was just beginning. As a result of the disaster that followed three successive Republican administrations - and their cutting regulations and dropping taxes on the most wealthy from over 70 percent to under 30 percent - the Roosevelt administration through most of the 1930s re-regulated the economy and raised taxes on the very rich back up to 91 percent. That led to fifty years of growth and prosperity, which came to an end with Ronald Reagan re-introducing the Harding/Cooledge/Hoover tax cuts and supply-side economics. Hopefully the Obama Administration will soon learn the lesson of the last Republican Great Depression and follow in FDR's footsteps.
The nation's top credit rating agencies have managed to fend off a crackdown from Washington by relying on a surprising ally - the First Amendment. Even though their key role in the most recent economic disaster, the three big bond raters--Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch--are ready to do it again. With assistance from two of the best constitutional lawyers in the country, these corporations have successfully argued that when they make a error -- like, awarding the top triple-A grade to a multibillion-dollar bundle of bonds that later default or to a company like Enron - yes, they did that -- that when they do that, they cannot be sued or held accountable. Why? Because ratings are opinions, the agencies claim, protected by the constitutional right to free speech. Corporations should have first amendment rights that the founders wrote only for people? What's next? That corporations will claim the Fourth Amendment right to privacy to hide their crimes? Oh, yeah, Dow Chemical has already asserted that, and actually won. That they assert a Fourteenth Amendment right against discrimination? Oh, yea, that's how hog farms and Wal-Marts get forced on communities that don't want them. We really need to reboot the Supreme Court, which has created out of thin air the idea that corporations are "persons" entitled to the protections of the Bill of Rights.