Turkey Day at Target: Jim Johnson Carves, Consumers Gobble and Run

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

This year’s hottest Thanksgiving event is being held in Minneapolis at the headquarters of Target Corp. The mega retailer, whose cheap designer duds keep Joe and Jane Doakes looking stylish even during a depression, will be celebrating T-Day in a novel way. Target’s chief execs and board of directors are ditching family gatherings in favor of chowing down together. According to a fly on the wall, the table in the corporate board room has already been set with plastic china. And a bank of big screen TVs has been mounted above the table. More about that in a minute.

Come dinnertime, board member James A. Johnson will be doing the carving. He’s definitely the man for the job. As chief executive of government-sponsored mortgage maven Fannie Mae between 1991 and ’98, Jim Johnson was known for his ability to eviscerate regulators. When congressional number crunchers fretted about taxpayer risk and the danger of consumers carrying too much housing debt, Jim and his fellow bubble chefs at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got busy with their long knives. Doing a Benihana on anyone insufficiently convinced re the social benefits of expanded home ownership programs. If profits for the chefs expanded along with the programs, so what? Doing well by doing good was all the rage in that gilded age.

That was then, this is Turkey Day 2011. Great news for consumers carrying too much debt! This year, Target’s Black Friday sales begin on Thursday. Doors open at midnight. Lines will be long. As soon as you’ve choked down the pumpkin pie, grab your credit cards and run. (Tip: time can be gained by skipping grace at the beginning of the meal.)  Leave the dishes in the sink. Heck– don’t even bother to clear the table. Let the dog do the cleanup.

About those TVs in Target’s boardroom– an unnamed source (the fly on the wall wishes to remain anonymous) says the company’s chief execs and board members want to watch– and wager on– consumers racing up and down Target aisles all over the country. Can the hefty gal in the pajama jeans beat the old but spry bald guy to the last marked-down tech toy du jour? Which mom will emerge victorious from the doll scrim in aisle 666? And can Target’s scooters for the disabled roll faster than other shoppers can run?

If not, there will be blood…

After the games are over, T-Day at Target headquarters will conclude on a light note, with execs and board members mugging it up (Jim Johnson allegedly does a hilarious parody of Bob Cratchit) as they read aloud from a petition signed by 190, 000 employees and rogue consumers, requesting that Target move its opening hour back to a leisurely 5 a.m on Black Friday morning.

 

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Update: Gingrich bumps Corzine as Batman’s Two-Face!

by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

It takes a lot to shock Hollywood. But the news that Newt Gingrich has bumped Jon Corzine as supervillain Two-Face in the next Batman is making jaws drop in Dream City. Corzine was reportedly in like Flynn; his duplicitous doings at MF Global made him Two-Face to the max. Sure, Jon had heavy competition from the powers-that-be at Penn State, but sports figures often flop on the big screen. (See OJ in assorted  turkeys.) Sources close to Batman’s producers say Jon was already sitting for his Two-Face make-up when a story broke at Bloomberg about Newt Gingrich being paid $1.6 million over eight years for acting as advisor to housing bubble enabler Freddie Mac.

So what sez you, what’s Two-Face about that? Well kiddies, ever since the bubble-derived economic meltdown of 2008, Gingrich has been a humongous critic of Freddie Mac and its partner in crime (the kind that never gets prosecuted) Fannie Mae. Even saying that Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank ought to go to jail for his tight past relationship with Freddie Mac’s lobbyists.

Does this epitomize Two-Face or what? Batman’s producers did a Molly Bloom and said “yes”. Jon out, Newt in.

Prior to 2008, Newt (gotta love that name ) allegedly buzzed into the ears of Freddie Mac lobbyists, telling them how to sell the “company’s public-private structure” in a way “that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it”. Meanwhile, at the White House, top Freddie Mac lobbyist Mitchell Delk channeled Newt when pitching expanded home ownership programs to President Bush. The channeling took place during the period when Freddie and Fannie were hot to roll out ever more extreme experiments in mortgage-derived madness. (Lest we forget, Freddie and Fannie aren’t lenders; they buy and securitize mortgages, turning them into taxpayer-backed investment fodder.) According to Delk, Dubya was hip to what the political bennies “could be for Republicans and…. their relationship with Hispanics.”

Not that Dubya was all opportunism and no ideals. Remember The Ownership Society? It opened well among neocons, then nosedived into bailout land. So far, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (or is it “Mack”?) have raked in roughly $169 billion of rescue. Both say they need more. Much more. Freddie alone is seeking $1.8 billion.

Question: Should Newt Gingrich kick his Batman bux back to taxpayers? I say “yes!” His turn as Freddie Mac’s Janus landed him the way cooler role of Two-Face. He owes us big time…

 

 

 

 

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