The Bonus Boom

If you want to know how Wall Street coasted through the recession, make sure you check out MoJo's Kevin Drum and David Corn's recent chat with Bill Moyers. But if you want the short version, check out these charts and infographics from our current issue. We've crunched the numbers on the real size of the bailout (try $14 trillion and counting), how Wall Street barons lined their nests while the sky fell around them, federal aid for the lenders behind the subprime mess, and Big Finance's favorite members of Congress. And there's more (see below). Make sure you've taken your blood pressure meds first. 


Sgt. Nicanor Garcia left his native Panama in 1989 before the invasion by the U.S. Army and didn't return until 20 years later. (US Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)

The must reads from the weekend and today's papers:

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Recently DC Bureau Chief David Corn and blogger Kevin Drum have had to wear a lot of makeup—that's what happens when you're on three different TV shows in the course of two days. If you haven't had a chance to see all the clips yet, the links are below in bold.

On Friday, the two sat down with PBS' Bill Moyers for an insightful hour-long conversation about the unrepentant and unreformed financial industry. Moyers began his show by detailing how completely Wall Street has recovered since bankers like Goldman Sach's CEO Lloyd Blankfein, the Financial Times' Person of the Year, nearly destroyed the global economy. "How do the bankers pick our pockets so thoroughly with barely a pang of guilt or punishment?" he asked. "You will find some answers in this current edition of Mother Jones magazine, one of the best sources of investigative journalism around today."

Moyers went on to point out that MoJo and, surprisingly enough, the Wall Street Journal are both skeptical of the administration's efforts to reform derivatives trading. They discussed the House Committee on Financial Services, which David pointed out "is called a money committee...because if you serve on that committee, you have access to a lot of money. Campaign cash." The first half hour concluded with talk about the lack of outrage over the infamous carried interest rule that allows hedgefund millionaires to pay income tax rates lower than those of their secretaries. "We should lay some of the blame," Kevin suggested, on "the media...People don't see it enough to get angry about it."

In the second half of Bill Moyers Journal, Kevin said that part of the reason real financial reform hasn't occurred is because "the bailout last year succeeded in a way, too well" and now people think "we can go back to business as usual." After a lost decade in which new jobs were not created and median wages did not increase, Moyers asked what the two made of the much discussed new article in Forbes by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) bashing Wall Street. "Well, the Democrats have to worry," David replied. "There is an opening here for the Republicans." Kevin concluded by offering Obama a suggestion from FDR's playbook: "If there's any one issue where...a real show that he was going to take these guys on could bring the country together, it very well might be taking on Wall Street." Better late, than never!

Friday also saw David making an appearance on Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Guest host Lawrence O'Donnell was uneasy with the implications of a bold New York Times Magazine article encouraging "strategic defaults" for underwater homeowners—Americans whose mortgages are now worth less than the price they agreed to pay during the housing bubble. "The system is still pretty rigged against homeowners," David responded. If homeowners begin thinking dispassionately about debt like businesses, "banks and the service companies will get the message...that they'd better start changing some terms and try to work this out so that they take some of the losses that they in part are responsible for."

Finally, be sure to watch the clip from Thursday of David on the Rachel Maddow Show discussing the GOP's politicization of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas day. Maddow began by reading a representative sample of the press releases from Republicans in response to Obama's recent speech on national security. The GOP used the occasion to malign Obama on everything from health care reform to Ft. Hood to his alleged "pre-9/11 mentality." David dismissed the petty Republican criticisms by saying, "They can keep making these rhetorical points because maybe they play on some old prejudices about Democrats being weak on national security. But they have no basis in fact."

You're in luck, MoJo fans. Get your quadruple dose of Mother Jones this week by catching our intrepid reporters on TV Thursday and Friday.

David Corn was on The Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night to discuss Republican hypocrisy in the response to the underwear bomber's attempted terrorist attack.

Stephanie Mencimer was on MSNBC Live today at 3:30 pm EST, discussing the Birthers and the Secret Service investigation that went public yesterday.

Both David Corn and Kevin Drum will be on Bill Moyers' Journal tonight (check your local listings). They’ll be discussing Wall Street's close ties with Washington and other obstacles to financial reform. Be sure to set your Tivo, or check back for clips! And head to your newsstand or subscribe now to read our in-depth coverage of Wall Street's accountability deficit.

And finally, catch David on Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight around 8:30 EST, talking about the new "voluntary" foreclosure trend and what ramifications these bad mortgage walk-outs may have on our financial, and political, institutions.


The latest unemployment data released today paint a somewhat disheartening picture—the jobless rate remains at 10 percent, and the economy shed 85,000 jobs last month—especially for this reason: Although jobs were lost, the unemployment rate held steady from the month before, meaning a large number of people had simply given up looking for a new job.

Which brings me to this graph from Calculated Risk. The blue line represents the number of people out of work for more than 26 weeks, and the red line represents the percentage of the workforce those long-term unemployed people represent. As you'll see, those 6.13 million people unemployed for more than 26 weeks constitute 4 percent of the civilian workforce—a record since the the Bureau of Labor Statistics started collecting this data in 1948.

Now, there are a few bright signs in today's jobs report. A crucial manufacturing index showed an encouraging uptick, raising the possibility of some growth in manufacturing industries, while the Labor Department revised jobs estimates from November to reflect gains of 4,000 jobs (the government had originally projected 11,000 lost jobs), the first gain in jobs in almost two years.

Krugman says the report supports his and others' belief that the stimulus was too small, and Brad DeLong uses the report as evidence that our economic recovery, if that's what this actually is, is likely going to be a jobless one. All in all, a decidedly mixed report, especially when it comes to the record numbers of the chronically unemployed, a total that's only likely to grow in the coming months.

(H/T Calculated Risk)

 When Chris Dodd announced his retirement this Wednesday, the media hullabaloo focused on Richard Blumenthal. With a massive lead over every Republican in the field, the Connecticut Attorney General, who announced his candidacy directly after Dodd's statement, already represents the Democrats' most promising chance to hold Dodd's seat. But Merrick Alpert, who launched his primary challenge to Dodd last May, has pledged to hold on for dear life. "When you step out there and commit, you commit," he told me, citing his faith in vigorous Democratic primaries.

Though Alpert initially focused much of his campaign on Dodd's missteps, he claims that the senator's retirement and Blumenthal's presence does not change the race. "I'm not running against anyone, I'm running for the Senate," he said and quickly shifted the topic to former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, one of the leading Republicans in the field. "When you see someone taking $50 million of world wrestling money to buy an election, the issue of clean government is ripe for discussion. She's trying to buy an election. That, to me, is disgraceful and just not acceptable."

If the Blumenthal news is bad for Alpert, who polled 30 points behind the unpopular Dodd, it's even worse for McMahon, who showed a slight lead over Dodd but trails Blumenthal by more than 30.

But instead of going after Blumenthal, Alpert, a lifelong Democrat who worked for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, was eager to add to his list of McMahon criticisms, saying "she's bad medicine for Connecticut." In between brief exchanges with supporters during his 5-day, 90-mile walk through Connecticut, he said over the sound of car honks that McMahon "is as phony as the place that she made her money. In none of her ads does she ever mention world wrestling. You would think that she and her husband owned a deli when in fact they made a fortune on lingerie wrestling matches. I'm not looking to explain that to my kids."

The Atlantic has a story in its January/February issue promisingly titled "What Makes a Great Teacher?" What indeed? As someone who follows education reform closely and occasionally writes about it, I clicked through to the article, eager to see what the writer, Amanda Ripley, had to say on one of the most puzzling, beguiling, confounding questions in all of education. What I found was far from inspiring or groundbreaking, and to be honest felt less like journalism and honest inquiry into teacher performance and more like, well, a Teach for America press release.

I guess the story's subhead should've clued me in:

For years, the secrets to great teaching have seemed more like alchemy than science, a mix of motivational mumbo jumbo and misty-eyed tales of inspiration and dedication. But for more than a decade, one organization has been tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and looking at why some teachers can move them three grade levels ahead in a year and others can't. Now, as the Obama administration offers states more than $4 billion to identify and cultivate effective teachers, Teach for America is ready to release its data.

What follows is nearly 6,000 words that mainly focus on the Teach for America's long-term data collecting on the performances of its teachers and their students, all in hopes of answering, as the story's title suggests, a crucial question: What distinguishes good and great teachers, the ones whose students excel in the classroom and are eager to learn everyday, from the rest of the pack? (Teach for America, or TFA, for the few stragglers still unfamiliar with the program, is a nonprofit organization that takes a class of smart, talented college graduates each year; puts them through TFA's five-week summer training program; then places them in low-income schools throughout the country where they teach on a two-year contract.) The promise of The Atlantic story is it will reveal the results of TFA's exhaustive, long-term teacher data and offer rigorously tested, refined, definitive predictors on what makes a good teacher.

LAKE PLACID, NY—A New York Army National Guard Soldier from the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry keeps his head down while serving as brakeman on a sled speeds down the Mount Van Hoevenberg bobsled track during the Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge in 2009. (US Army photo by Lt. Col. Robert Bullock.)

Today's must-reads would like to introduce you to me:

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