Here's the question of the day

Since they can't make any more money off the poor with debt, Wall Street is turning to making money off food by speculating on commodities.

Wall Street Grain Hoarding Brings Farmers, Consumers Near Ruin
Bloomberg News

As farmers confront mounting costs and riots erupt from Haiti to Egypt over food, Garry Niemeyer is paying the price for Wall Street's speculation in grain markets.

Commodity-index funds control a record 4.51 billion bushels of corn, wheat and soybeans through Chicago Board of Trade futures, equal to half the amount held in U.S. silos on March 1. The holdings jumped 29 percent in the past year as investors bought grain contracts seeking better returns than stocks or bonds. The buying sent crop prices and volatility to records and boosted the cost for growers and processors to manage risk.

Niemeyer, who farms 2,200 acres in Auburn, Illinois, won't use futures to protect the value of the crop he will harvest in October. With corn at $5.9075 a bushel, up from $3.88 last year, he says the contracts are too costly and risky. Investors want corn so much that last month they paid 55 cents a bushel more than grain handlers, the biggest premium since 1999.

"It's the best of times for somebody speculating on grain prices, but it's not the best of times for farmers," said Niemeyer, 59. "The demand for futures exceeds the demand for cash grains."

Commodity investors control more U.S. crops than ever before, competing with governments and consumers for dwindling food supplies. Demand is rising with population and income gains in Asia, while record energy costs boost biofuels consumption, sending grain inventories to the lowest levels in two decades.

Greedy speculators are now causing starvation in their merciless, unrestrained thirst for profit at everyone else's expense.

After bailing out Bear Stearns and other banks with cash infusions, how much of the tax payer's money is now going into driving up commodity prices?


What a frickin' mess

The 21st Century will see the ultimate frenzy of corporate greed give way to a full-fledged backlash in which corporations lose all of the rights and many of the privileges they currently enjoy. That's my plan, anyway.

I don't mind the rights and privileges they enjoy.

I want them to have to take responsibility for their actions. I don't mind corporations earning a profit. But when they earn a profit on the backs of people who don't earn enough to feed their families, I want the individuals on the boards of directors to be held responsible. I want the days of incredible corporate bonuses to be over until all Americans earn a living wage.

And I don't think it's too much to ask. In fact, I don't think it's too much to demand.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

The rights trump the responsibilities

The whole idea that legal entities can have rights that exceed those that individual people have is problematic. For example, the LLC - limited liability corporation - exists primarily to shield the company from risks that they'd otherwise incur. There's a growing interest among progressives to eliminate corporations as entities with legal standing - allowing the risks to flow directly back to the owners.

We live in a society where companies are allowed to pass risks off to the general population, while they preserve the rewards exclusively for themselves. A CEO who gets $20 million in bonuses after driving his company into the toilet is just one small example of that. The whole mortgage mess is another.