Ed Schultz on Tuesday spent a great deal of time blaming the crisis in Egypt on rising food prices tying commodity inflation to former President George H.W. Bush and Wall Street speculators.
Not once in over fifteen minutes of air time were the name Bill Clinton or the two bills he signed into law that deregulated the financial services and commodity futures industries mentioned (videos follow with partial transcripts and commentary):
ED SCHULTZ, HOST: It’s not just Egypt and Jordan. Yemen and Tunisia have also had mass protests. They’re all autocratic, majority Muslim nations. But they’re not all oil states. And Tunisia is mostly secular.
So, what else do these countries have in common? One thing is high food prices -- a factor in how all the riots really started and how all of it started. And it’s not a coincidence that all of them have high food prices right now. Food prices have skyrocketed around the world and a big reason for that is Wall Street.
SCHULTZ (voice-over): It started in 1991 with -- surprise, surprise - - Goldman Sachs. Before then, Wall Street speculators played only a minor role in food prices.
The way it worked, food companies and their suppliers, America’s farmers, wanted to keep their business stable, even if prices spiked for wheat, corn, or other agricultural commodities. So, they’d hedge their bets, signing contracts, futures, to lock in prices for some point in the future. Speculators helped, putting enough money in the system to keep things liquid.
After the Depression, FDR saw that speculators could drive up the price of wheat, corn, whatever, by betting on commodity futures the way Wall Street later bet on dotcoms. Distorting food prices like that could destroy the very stability future contracts were created to provide. So, FDR signed into law what are called position limits -- limits on how much of the total betting could be done by Wall Street.
And what do you know? It worked. For decades, the price of wheat was driven by fundamentals like the weather, and Wall Street couldn’t stand it.
In 1991, Goldman Sachs asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the CFTC, to give them a waiver on those position limits, so they could bet as much as they wanted. A CFTC appointee for the first President Bush said sure. More than a dozen other firms followed suit.
When the videotape ended, Schultz brought on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan who also pointed a finger at Bush 41:
SCHULTZ: Let’s bring in my colleague, Dylan Ratigan. He’s got his own show right here on MSNBC week days at 4:00, formerly of CNBC and Bloomberg News. Thanks for coming in tonight, Dylan. I appreciate it.
DYLAN RATIGAN, HOST, "THE DYLAN RATIGAN SHOW": It’s a pleasure.
SCHULTZ: I know that you have talked a lot about speculators and what has happened on Wall Street but this has really been a tsunami in the food world, which has caused a lot of havoc around the world.
Tell us, these price hikes, strictly due to speculation?
RATIGAN: No. First, I want to compliment you on your reporting, Ed. I think you just did an exquisitely good job of describing the contributing factor that financial speculation has been in the spike not just in food prices but also in energy prices.
Unfortunately, there are other factors also in the financial community that are even more sinister. There’s a mathematical certainty, Ed, that is this: all the paper currency in the world, all the money, all the paper, must by definition equal the value of all the commodities, because a commodity is equal to what the value of the currencies are in the world.
In order to cover up the massive bank theft that’s been perpetrated in this country in 2008, the Federal Reserve, under the guidance of first President Bush and now President Obama as you know, Ed, has been printing trillions of new dollars and people, smart financial planners, have been concerned about the debasing effect that has on our currency. Well, as a direct result of the Federal Reserve’s money printing, to cover up our bank theft, that has been an additional factor in causing commodity prices to explode higher.
So, in addition, to the speculative aspects that you describe so well, a by-product of the Federal Reserve and the White House and the Treasury’s decision to go with money printing as a way to prop up our economy, is driving food prices higher.
Notice something missing?
How about the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, both signed into law by former President Bill Clinton?
Not a peep!
After a commercial break, Schultz brought former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) on to continue lambasting everyone except Clinton:
SCHULTZ: Food riots across the Middle East and Wall Street has their fingerprints all over it. And don’t think it can’t happen here. I mean, folks, we did have $4 a gallon gas, didn’t we on speculators?
And it could happen again. The USDA predicts our food prices are going to be going up this year. President Obama campaigned on doing something about this. But we haven’t seen any results as of yet. I know there’s a lot going on. And with Republicans in control of the House, it’s not clear we will get anything done until it’s too late.
Let’s bring in North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan, just recently out of the Senate who sat on the commerce committee among others, comes from a farm state and predicted more than 10 years ago what deregulation was going to mean to this country. Senator, thanks for staying with us tonight. I appreciate your time. How did this all happen? If you can just pin it down for us -- how did this all happen?
FMR. SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Well, you know, the Congress, the government gave a green light to the big financial firms in this country and said, do what you want to do. We won’t look. We’ll put regulators who are willfully blind in place and you do whatever you want to do. The result has been unbelievable speculation in the commodities. We’ve seen oil go to $147 a barrel on day trading. It had nothing to do with supply and demand, had everything to do with greed and speculation. Same is true now with food.
And the interesting thing is we now understand that what lights the fuse in some of these countries -- Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Yemen, is the price of food sparks the protests. It has people in the streets. Yes, there’s a passion for freedom, but they’re in the streets driven at least in part by this increase in food prices and now as you say we see fingerprints from Wall Street all over this, with unbelievable excess speculation. It has to stop.
SCHULTZ: And we know that the Republicans are not about regulation. They’re about deregulation. And we could see more of the same. I mean, I don’t see anything stopping this freight train coming. Do you?
Yes, Ed, but where were the Democrats in 1999 and 2000 when the real pieces of legislation that ushered in massive commodity speculation and the financial crisis were enacted?
Well, they were for both bills, as FSMA in November 1999 passed in the Senate by a vote of 90 to 8 and 362 to 57 in the House. This is what completely deregulated banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies to invest in anything they wanted including commodities.
Compounding matters further, CFMA greatly added to commodities speculation the following year by not only completely deregulating derivatives, but also claiming the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had little to no oversight of overseas electronic exchanges such as Britain's InterContinental Exchange.
As a result, there are no position limits on trades made on such exchanges, and practically no reporting requirements thereby allowing traders to buy and sell as much as they want with virtually no restrictions.
But Schultz, Ratigan, and Dorgan nicely ignored these bills and their consequences because Democrats are tied to them.
CFMA cleared the legislative process by initially passing with almost unanimous support. In fact, the final vote cast in the House on October 19, 2000, was 377-4.
180 Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.), voted in favor of this bill.
Months later, this legislation became part of a larger, end of the year consolidated appropriations act which passed the House by a vote of 292 to 60. Only nine Democrats voted against it.
The bill was later approved with a voice vote by the Senate - without objection - and signed into law by President Clinton on December 21.
Any wonder this was all totally ignored in over 15 minutes of discussion about commodities futures speculation on MSNBC Tuesday evening?
I guess it would have invalidated Schultz's absurd notion that the crisis in Egypt is all caused by rising food prices if it could in any way be tied to Clinton and Democrats.