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- Ignore four
|5/23/2010 11:39:04 PM
- Ignore Eman93
|5/24/2010 11:58:30 PM
“The Market” is a Reactionary Mystification: Reply to the Attack on Economic Populism from Franco Debenedetti and other Italian Economists
Webster G. Tarpley
May 23, 2010
A group of Italian economists led by Franco Debenedetti of the famous financier clan and the banker Paolo Savona, obviously fearful that the Berlusconi-Tremonti government of Italy will join last Tuesday’s successful German ban on the type of toxic derivative known as the naked credit default swap, have sent an alarmed warning to the Corriere della Sera of Milan1. Debenedetti has contributed an article expressing similar sentiments to the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore in which he rails at the “Mrs. Merkel market” now in force in Germany2. These economists, obviously inspired by the doctrines of Friedrich von Hayek and the Austrian school, want Italy to remain faithful no matter what to the widely discredited ideas of laissez-faire economics, even as those doctrines are everywhere under attack for having caused the current world economic depression. For these neoliberal and monetarist thinkers, any attempt to ban derivatives or tax speculation must be condemned as “economic populism,” which for these writers is a term of opprobrium.
These anti-populist economists need to be reminded of some basic facts about derivatives. The collapse of the Central European banking system in the summer of 1931 was decisively enabled by derivatives – specifically by speculation in wool futures by a north German textile company which brought down the Danat Bank, leading to panic runs on all German banks. Thanks to the American New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, most over-the-counter and exchange-traded derivatives were illegal from 1936 to 1982 under the Commodities Exchange Act, which was repealed by the free-market enthusiast Ronald Reagan. During those years, US rates of economic growth and real wages were far superior to what they have been any time since, and financial panics were much more limited than they had been before or have become since. Presumably, FDR would be dismissed as a mere populist.
In today’s crisis, we are confronted at every turn with the fatal combination of deregulated hedge funds plus these now-rehabilitated derivatives, which in the meantime amount to a world speculative bubble of some $1.5 quadrillion of notional value. Lehman Brothers, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch were destroyed by derivatives in the form of a combination of their issuance of synthetic collateralized debt obligations based on mortgages and consumer debt, together with the credit default swaps used by hedge funds to attack these banks. The insurance company AIG had a hedge fund in London which issued $3 trillion worth of derivatives (more than the GDP of France), featuring a very toxic portfolio of credit default swaps. The failure of AIG caused by these toxic bets has now cost the US taxpayer $180 billion and counting. The attack on Greece, as these economists seem to recognize, was organized during a dinner party in Manhattan on February 8, 2010, leader reported in the headline story of the Wall Street Journal on February 26, 20103. European taxpayers are now on the hook for almost $1 trillion in bailouts as a result of this speculation. That Manhattan hedge fund dinner seems to fulfill the prima facie specifications of an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade under the terms of the US Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, a law proposed all those years ago by a very Republican senator and signed by Benjamin Harrison, a very Republican president. Were they populists too?
The May 6, 2010 1,000-point fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average was the result of a speculative bet using options (i.e., derivatives) against the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index placed by the Universa Investments hedge fund, advised by “Black Swan” theorist Nassim Taleb – according to the Wall Street Journal of May 11, 2010. That thousand point plunge, it is estimated, wiped out about $1 trillion worth of paper wealth in about 20 minutes. What with a trillion here and a trillion there, derivatives and the regulated hedge funds are becoming a prohibitively expensive luxury.
Debenedetti and his friends wish to save credit default swaps at all costs. In this they face serious problems. On one level, credit default swaps are bets, wagers, and therefore illegal under the gambling laws in many countries. If it is argued that credit default swaps are insurance, then they are also illegal, since most of the issuers are not insurance companies, and have no intention of meeting the legal requirements to underwrite insurance policies, such as legal registration, capital requirements, etc. Are credit default swaps such a glorious benefit to society that they should enjoy exemption from laws and regulations? Recent history indicates that derivatives do not merit such special treatment.
Debenedetti and his friends are also opposed to a Tobin tax, otherwise known as a Wall Street sales tax, financial transaction tax, securities transfer tax, trading tax, or Robin Hood tax, which would be levied on the financial transactions of market players. Debenedetti & Co. therefore want derivatives and other financial instruments to enjoy yet another exemption. In Italy, the vast majority of goods and services must pay a hefty Value Added Tax (VAT or IVA). Parents who want to buy shoes, clothing, and school supplies for their children must pay this tax. But for some strange reason, banks and hedge funds do not pay on their flash trading, program trading, and high-frequency trading. We can guess that the total deficit of governments at all levels in Europe, the United States, and Japan is closely correlated to the total exemption of financial institutions from IVA or sales tax on their turnover. To argue that this de facto public subsidy for speculation should be continued in an era when so many other activities are being heavily taxed or subjected to austerity cuts is reminiscent of the mentality of the French aristocracy under the pre-1789 ancien régime, which claimed that it had the divine right not be taxed under any circumstances. This claim, as we know, did not hold up.
At the heart of the arguments put forward by Debenedetti and his friends is the notion that human reason is very weak indeed, and cannot attain a practical understanding or overview of how political economy works. Only the market, they claim, can do with this by totalizing so many separate facts. But they are not arguing from any empirical observation of how markets really work, but expressing the fetishism of an efficient market which was typical of von Hayek and other Austrians. They tried to portray markets as genuine epistemological tools, which provided knowledge which could not be obtained any other way. Even the Ayn Rand devotee Alan Greenspan has backed away from this extravagant claim in the wake of the catastrophic collapse of the New York banks in October 2008. When asked whether he had been led astray by his market ideology, Greenspan told a Congressional hearing: “Yes, I’ve found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I’ve been very distressed by that fact.” (New York Times, October 23, 2008) Debenedetti does not share this distress. At the same time, the successful history of the Bank of the United States under Alexander Hamilton, the French Commissariat du Plan under DeGaulle, and the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI)) makes clear to human reason is indeed capable of determining the main priorities of national economies.
Market fetishism is radically anti-historical. Everyone is aware of speculative manias, bubbles, panics, and the other recurring psychoses which make the judgment of any market totally unreliable in many critical moments. And what if there are monopolies, duopolies, oligopolies, trusts, combinations, or cartels of the February 8 type? Then the market is permanently distorted, which is what we have been seeing for decades.
Debenedetti wants “the market” to be seen as objective and impersonal, but it is not. “The market” has names and faces. If we find that half a dozen of the largest US banks control about 60% of all assets in the entire United States economy, then we can make that exorbitant control very personal and concrete. The owners of a majority share of the United States are bankers like Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase, Vikram Pandit of Citibank, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, John Mack of Morgan Stanley, and Brian Moynihan of Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, and their respective boards. We can even know how many billions each one has been given in the form of bailouts at public expense.
The Austrian school makes the market into a metaphysical abstraction, a force above the rest of history, because it needs this mystification in order to defend the very concrete privileges of some very sleazy individuals who are the speculators. Some early Protestants tried to argue that the success of the speculator had been instituted by God. When this idea lost traction, apologists for speculation tried to argue that the speculators were morally or intellectually superior to the rest of humanity. When that did not work either, the Austrian school hit upon the trick of removing the speculators from consideration altogether by hiding them from view behind the anonymous and impersonal abstraction of “the market.” As the case of Greenspan suggests, this argument has also become untenable, and the entire edifice of Austrian thought is falling to the ground.
Debenedetti and his co-thinkers suggest that “the market” is able to detect the secret financial weaknesses of nations. But surely the shoe is on the other foot. The major US banks listed above were all, without exception, bankrupt and insolvent before US government intervention in the form of the bailout of October 2008. Today, any objective appraisal would conclude that Greece is far more economically viable and solvent then Citibank. Portugal is more viable than Goldman Sachs. Italy has a brighter economic future by far than J.P. Morgan.
The situation today would therefore seem to offer the following alternative. The speculative assault of the zombie banks and hedge fund speculators may succeed in bankrupting the modern nation state at all levels, in which case we will be dealing with the collapse of civilization as we have known it since the first prototype of the modern state emerged in Milan in the late 14th century under Giangaleazzo Visconti, who offered debt relief to strapped farmers. The better alternative is that the nation state will use its inherent sovereign powers to liquidate the bankrupt zombie banks and regulate many of the predatory activities of hedge funds out of existence, while banning the most toxic forms of derivatives and forcing speculators to share in the general tax burden of society.
Those who want the second of these alternatives must get to work here and now. The most obvious way to begin is for the present Italian government of Berlusconi and Tremonti to join the measures instituted by the German government last Tuesday. Italy should also go beyond these tentative initial German measures by banning all forms of credit default swaps, which are already inherently illegal under existing laws. Then there are those extremely dangerous synthetic collateralized debt obligations, which even Blankfein of Goldman Sachs has suggested might be done away with. They should indeed be totally banned at once. Antitrust investigations could be opened against the Feb. 8 hedge fund group by the Italian magistrates, whose independence has become world-famous. The Tobin tax should also be instituted on an emergency measure for financial stability and revenue enhancement on a purely national basis, with the revenue being retained for the benefit of the national budget.
Additional countries may soon join in the German ban. Likely candidates are the nations that were closely associated with the D-Mark in the old “snake in a tunnel” currency bloc starting in the 1970s. These would include Belgium and the Netherlands. The Czech Republic is another possibility, as is Sweden. Soon we may have a pro-derivatives bloc led by the US and the UK confronting an anti-derivatives bloc led by Germany. On the eve of the Washington Economic Conference of November 2008, I wrote: “The best we can hope for … is … dividing the world between a US-UK dominated derivatives bloc and a Brazil-India-Russia-China-South Africa anti-derivatives bloc interested in real physical commodity production, not fictitious capital.” The surprise is that the leadership of the anti-derivatives forces has actually been seized by Germany.
 Franco Debenedetti, Oscar Giannin, Antonio Martino, Roberto Perotti, Nicola Rossi, Paolo Savona, Vito Tanzi, Alberto Mingardi, “In difesa del mercato e degli operatori i responsabili veri e presunti della crisi,” Corriere della Sera, May 21, 2010, http://archiviostorico.corriere.it/2010/maggio/21/difesa_del_mercato_degli_operatori_co_9_100521085.shtml
 Franco Debenedetti, “È il mercato signora Merkel,” Il Sole 24 Ore, May 21, 2010, http://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/SoleOnLine4/Editrice/IlSole24Ore/2010/05/21/Italia/17_A.shtml
 See “Financial Warfare Exposed: Soros, Goldman Sachs, Hedge Funds Attack Greece to Smash Euro,” http://tarpley.net/2010/03/04/financial-warfare-exposed-soros-goldman-sachs-hedge-funds-attack-greece-to-smash-euro/
- Ignore Eman93
|5/24/2010 11:59:39 PM
We are living in interesting times indeed
- Ignore johnpaulca
|5/28/2010 12:24:17 AM
Lawmakers press J&J to explain "phantom recall"
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional investigators said Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson hired a private company that bought up defective packets of pain relievers in 2008 before recalling the pills months later, after prodding from federal regulators.
The new questions about J&J's handling of quality issues came during a hearing about its latest recall involving over 100 million bottles of children's medicine, some of which contained tiny particles of metal.
"This is an issue of trust, when parents and grandparents give these medicines to their children they want to be confident that they are not harmful," said Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Last month J&J's McNeil division recalled more than 40 varieties of children's medicines after the Food and Drug Administration discovered a slew of violations at a company plant.
The FDA has not linked the recalled products to any health problems.
Colleen Goggins, J&J's president for McNeil consumer products, told lawmakers the company has already taken steps to fix the problems, including shaking up its management structure.
But she had few answers to questions about an alleged "phantom recall" of more than 88,000 packets of Motrin, a pain reliever containing ibuprofen. According to FDA documents, J&J learned about a formulation problem in November 2008 that interfered with the pills' dissolving action, causing them to lose potency.
J&J then hired an outside contractor to collect samples of the product -- mainly sold in gas stations -- and determine whether a recall was necessary.
But instead of sampling the product, the contractor began purchasing large quantities of Motrin and instructing its employees not to mention a recall.
A memo titled "Motrin Purchase Project," distributed during the hearing states: "You should simply 'act' like a regular customer while making these purchases. There must be no mention of this being a recall of the product!"
Goggins said the FDA was aware of the contractor's activities, but she couldn't answer questions about the memo or even why the company was originally hired.
"I can't tell you about the behavior of those contractors, but the FDA was aware of the action," Goggins said. "There was no intent to mislead or hide anything."
FDA's Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein said the agency was alarmed to learn about the mass purchases.
"I don't think we fully understood what was going on, but it was troubling to us," said Sharfstein, adding that the incident "reflected poorly on the company."
J&J eventually recalled the lots of Motrin in July 2009 after being confronted by FDA staff.
Chairman Towns said he would continue investigating the "phantom recall" and asked Goggins to follow up on the committee's questions.
"Who at McNeil and Johnson & Johnson knew about this scheme?" asked Towns "How high up in the corporate suite was this scheme hatched?"
In testimony Thursday, Sharfstein laid out J&J's repeated violations of quality and manufacturing standards, which have resulted in three recalls in the last eight months.
FDA held a meeting with J&J executives in February, pressing them to improve their operations.
"FDA told the company's leadership that significant, immediate steps were needed to address issues of compliance and quality," said Sharfstein.
Sharfstein said the agency is considering taking enforcement action against the company, including "seizure, injunction or criminal penalties."
Since the April 30 recall, the FDA has received hundreds of reports of complications with J&J products, though the agency has not directly linked any medical problem to the recalled medicines.
The recall involved children's versions of Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin and other products that make up nearly 70 percent of the market for pediatric medications.
New Brunswick, N.J.-based J&J has long enjoyed a sterling reputation for safety, earned in the 1980s for quickly pulling bottles of Tylenol that had been tainted with cyanide.
J&J had its sales force remove 264,000 Tylenol bottles from store shelves and consumers were urged to return any Tylenol they had for a safe bottle. The company actually took first place in a poll of corporate reputations last year.
- Ignore johnpaulca
|6/4/2010 8:58:32 AM
With the fine folks at JPMorgan comprising one of the few investment banks to survive the financial crisis (at least as of yet), it seemed as though it was only a matter of time before all the bad karma caught up with them. Well, the time is now as the firm finds itself in the news for all the wrong reasons, with its London unit being fined £33.3 million ($48.8 million) by the Financial Services Authority for an ill-advised clerical error.
Obviously this was no simple clerical error, as the firm was deemed guilty of failing to properly separate clients’ accounts from its own funds. Had the bank gone belly up over the seven (seven!) years during which the error was in full effect, those clients would have lost their money.
Now, before we consider the fine to be too strict (how many people wouldn’t love the chance to live off $50 million for the rest of their natural lives?), it’s quite important to put it all in perspective. For instance, the amount of money that wasn’t properly segregated? An average of $8.6 BILLION! Meanwhile, the company’s total profit in 2009? According to Wikipedia, $11.728 BILLION! Its operating revenue in that same year? ONE HUNDRED POINT FOUR THREE FOUR billion! Clearly not chump change, but that aforementioned hefty fine? Very much so when the whole picture is painted for all to see.
To you and me, sure $50 million can buy a whole lot of fish and chips, but fish and chips likely don’t mean all that much to JPMorgan. Yes, the bank would prefer to not to have to pay the fine at all (one would think anyway), but it’s hard to believe that JPMorgan will have learned its lesson over a fine that amounts to just slightly more money the bank earns in one day.
Perhaps this fine is just the first salvo of many to come against huge financial services firms with equally huge senses of entitlement. To JPMorgan’s credit, they did cooperate (they risked a larger £47.6-million fine if they chose not to, along with the worse public-relations nightmare to follow) and the FSA says there are other fines against other companies to come. Not only that, but the size of the fine could as much as triple in the future. So, I guess that means that guilty parties would have to pay profits earned over three days instead of just the one.
Pardon my lack of enthusiasm over the severity of the punishment, which clearly does not fit the crime. Back in my day, you’d get a one-way trip to the police station in a police van for a much less serious offense, say supporting your favourite football club a little too passionately.
In any case, there are theories that the size of the (believed-to-be-large) fine is a direct result of the quagmire that was Lehman Brothers that saw clients lose their money once the bank went under in September 2008, that it took the financial crisis and all the havoc wreaked to get the FSA to get its proverbial rear in gear. And yet it seems hard to believe that this oversight by JPMorgan is the first transgression of its size since the number two first hit the fan two years ago.
The fine is indeed the largest handed out by the FSA in its history, but that doesn’t necessarily make it all that impactful. What would be impactful is a maintained sense of vigilance from here on out. A little vigilance and a lot of (consistent) enforcement may just go a long way to righting this titanic that is the global economy. The people have paid enough for the banks’ mistakes.
- Ignore Eman93
|6/5/2010 11:30:45 AM
Long Island genius with plan to solve oil spill tours Gulf coast
By REBECCA ROSENBERG Post Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:17 AM, June 5, 2010
Posted: 2:40 AM, June 5, 2010
| More Print
SLIDELL, La. -- The Long Island girl genius who hatched a plan to solve the Gulf oil spill yesterday toured a ravaged area of the coast -- and said it's more important than ever that her plan be put into effect.
"This is a nightmare," said 21-year-old engineering prodigy Alia Sabur after a 2½-hour helicopter ride with BP workers and Coast Guard members east of Lake Pontchartrain. "And I think my idea would help."
Sabur, who has already worked with NASA and the Defense Department as she studies for her Ph.D., showed her plans to a BP executive on Thursday.
SABUR Has plan to plug leak.
SABUR Has plan to plug leak.
Her tour yesterday of the endangered Gulf region filled her with determination to solve the crisis.
"It was sad seeing the oil," she said.
Sabur's plan calls for a pipe ringed by deflated car tires to be rammed into the leaking oil pipe. Once in place, the tires would be inflated through pneumatic tubes and form a seal.
During her aerial tour yesterday, Sabur witnessed the long booms put in place to trap oil before it can get to shore.
"Even if they fix the leak, there's going to be still a lot more to deal with," she said. "It's a scary thought."
Additional reporting by Todd Venezi
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/li_genius_sad_tour_of_zone_o3q3QSwmLLMGCWbNmOcjEJ#ixzz0pzbmc599
- Ignore Eman93
|6/5/2010 9:06:46 PM
U.S.’s $13 Trillion Debt Poised to Overtake GDP: Chart of Day
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By Garfield Reynolds and Wes Goodman
June 4 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama is poised to increase the U.S. debt to a level that exceeds the value of the nation’s annual economic output, a step toward what Bill Gross called a “debt super cycle.”
The CHART OF THE DAY tracks U.S. gross domestic product and the government’s total debt, which rose past $13 trillion for the first time this month. The amount owed will surpass GDP in 2012, based on forecasts by the International Monetary Fund. The lower panel shows U.S. annual GDP growth as tracked by the IMF, which projects the world’s largest economy to expand at a slower pace than the 3.2 percent average during the past five decades.
“Over the long term, interest rates on government debt will likely have to rise to attract investors,” said Hiroki Shimazu, a market economist in Tokyo at Nikko Cordial Securities Inc., a unit of Japan’s third-largest publicly traded bank. “That will be a big burden on the government and the people.”
Gross, who runs the world’s largest mutual fund at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, said in his June outlook report that “the debt super cycle trend” suggests U.S. economic growth won’t be enough to support the borrowings “if real interest rates were ever to go up instead of down.”
Dan Fuss, who manages the Loomis Sayles Bond Fund, which beat 94 percent of competitors the past year, said last week that he sold all of his Treasury bonds because of prospects interest rates will rise as the U.S. borrows unprecedented amounts. Obama is borrowing record amounts to fund spending programs to help the economy recover from its longest recession since the 1930s.
“The incremental borrower of funds in the U.S. capital markets is rapidly becoming the U.S. Treasury,” Boston-based Fuss said. “Do you really want to buy the debt of the biggest issuer?”
(To save a copy of the chart, click here.)
- Ignore four
|6/6/2010 1:39:07 AM
oil eating microbes
- Ignore jrbikes
|6/6/2010 2:21:59 AM
some of those Nano microbes, what if they turned into flesh eating Nano microbes?
- Ignore johnpaulca
|6/6/2010 10:08:44 AM
When the Canadian dollar was low in value, foreign companies bought up most of the businesses in Canada at garage sale prices. Foreign owners have closed down the canning factories in Exeter (north of London, ON) and in the Niagara area. As a result the local farmers have no place to sell their produce or have it preserved.
In the soft fruit producing area of Niagara, farmers have ripped out their peach trees because other than road side stands who will buy their fruit? The big companies have already decided and publicly announced that it is cheaper to buy canned peaches from Greece, so that is what you will see in stores. The farm land is being sold to developers and turned into big house and condo developments.
The canning factory in Exeter was eventually taken over by a co-op of former employees and they will try to make a go of it but it sounds kind of shaky. The politicians stood by and did nothing.
Garlic is no longer produced in Canada because it comes from China at a price cheaper than the cost of production in Canada. That's all you see in stores and there is no Canadian produced garlic to choose from even at a higher price. Maybe the high taxes in Canada have something to do with it. A small but determined radical group trying to unionize farm labour didn't help matters either.
Sure all these trade agreements bring us low cost material goods, but if everyone is out of a job who is going to buy these products?
Good luck trying to find 100% Canadian products in stores. The only way to find such a thing is to deal directly with the farmer and leave out the retailer.
"FOOD" for thought. More information on this subject.....
I WAS BUYING FOOD THE OTHER DAY AT THE COUNTRY MARKET. ON> THE LABEL OF SOME PRODUCTS IT SAID 'FROM CHINA '.
FOR EXAMPLE THE "OUR FAMILY" BRAND OF THE MANDARIN ORANGES SAYS RIGHT ON THE CAN FROM CHINA I WAS SHOCKED!! SO FOR A FEW MORE CENTS I BOUGHT THE LIBERTY GOLD BRAND
OR THE DOLE IS FROM CAL .
Another example was in canned mushrooms. No-Name brand came From Indonesia . Next to them were President Choice brand. Produce of Canada !! The P. C. Went into my grocery bag.
TAKES FOREVER JUST TO BUY FOOD AND DO LABEL READING !!
Are we Canadians and Americans as dumb as we appear
--- Or --- is it that we just do not think?
While the Chinese, knowingly and intentionally, export inferior and even toxic products and dangerous toys and goods to be sold in North American markets, the media wrings its hands and criticizes the Bush Administration (now Obama Administration) (and the Harper Government!) for perceived errors.
Yet 70% of North Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended.
Well, duh... Why do you need the government to suspend trading privileges?
SIMPLY DO IT YOURSELF, CANADA/AMERICA!!
Simply look on the bottom of every product you buy, and if it says 'Made in China ' or 'PRC' (and that now includes Hong Kong ) simply choose another product, or none at all. You will be amazed at how dependent you are on Chinese products, and you will be equally amazed at what you can do without. Who needs plastic eggs to celebrate Easter? If you must have eggs, use real ones and benefit some North American farmer. Easter is just an example, the point is do not wait for the government to act. Just go ahead and assume control on your own.
THINK ABOUT THIS, If 200 million North Americans refuse to buy just $20 each of Chinese goods, that's a billion dollar trade imbalance resolved in our favour . . . Fast!!
The downside? Some Canadian/American businesses will feel a temporary pinch from having foreign stockpiles of inventory. Wahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!
The solution? Let's give them fair warning and send our own message. Most of the people who have been reading about this matter are planning on implementing this on June 4, and continue it until July 4. That is only one month of trading losses, but it will hit the Chinese for 1/12th of the total, or 8%, of their North American exports. Then they will at least have to ask themselves if the benefits of their arrogance and lawlessness were worth it...
"Remember: June 4 to July 4 "
EVEN BETTER. . . START NOW!
Send this to everybody you know.
Let's show them that we are intelligent Canadians and Americans, And NOBODY can take us for granted.
If we can't live without cheap Chinese goods for one month out of our lives, WE DESERVE WHAT WE GET!
Pass it on, North America !
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