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Key among those changes is Mr. Frank's decision to omit the "plain vanilla" mandate from his pending CFPA bill. So-called "exotic" financial products -- particularly subprime mortgages that typically offered low introductory payments that later ballooned in size -- have caused soaring default rates and were considered a major factor in last year's financial crisis. The administration had wanted to ensure that banks and other mortgage lenders give customers the option of less risky fixed-rate and simple adjustable-rate home loans.
Congress appears set to ignore President Obama's proposal that banks be required to offer "plain vanilla" financial products such as 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, giving the banking industry an early victory in its fight with the administration over how to reform the financial-services sector. Read more.
nto the ground economically, with one million school children now homeless, while Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke announces that the recession is over.
The spin that masquerades as news is becoming more delusional. Consumer spending is 70% of the US economy. It is the driving force, and it has been shut down. Except for the super rich, there has been no growth in consumer incomes in the 21st century. Statistician John Williams of shadowstats.com reports that real household income has never recovered its pre-2001 peak.
The US economy has been kept going by substituting growth in consumer debt for growth in consumer income. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan encouraged consumer debt with low interest rates. The low interest rates pushed up home prices, enabling Americans to refinance their homes and spend the equity. Credit cards were maxed out in expectations of rising real estate and equity values to pay the accumulated debt. The binge was halted when the real estate and equity bubbles burst.
As consumers no longer can expand their indebtedness and their incomes are not rising, there is no basis for a growing consumer economy. Indeed, statistics indicate that consumers are paying down debt in their efforts to survive financially. In an economy in which the consumer is the driving force, that is bad news.
The banks, now investment banks thanks to greed-driven deregulation that repealed the learned lessons of the past, were even more reckless than consumers and took speculative leverage to new heights. At the urging of Larry Summers and Goldman Sachs’ CEO Henry Paulson, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bush administration went along with removing restrictions on debt leverage.
When the bubble burst, the extraordinary leverage threatened the financial system with collapse. The US Treasury and the Federal Reserve stepped forward with no one knows how many trillions of dollars to “save the financial system,” which, of course, meant to save the greed-driven financial institutions that had caused the economic crisis that dispossessed ordinary Americans of half of their life savings. Read more.
I wrote a newspaper column this week noting the rank hypocrisy in political and media circles when it comes to their supposed concerns about the deficit. I noted that Tea Party protesters are among the biggest hypocrites - and chief among them is political terrorist Glenn Beck, because, as you'll see, the truth is the bailout is the Beck Bank Bailout.
As Frank Rich notes, Beck has been promoting himself not only as a racist culture warrior, but as an economic populist who rails on government giveaways to Wall Street. In that sense, he's sort of trying to be a neo-Buchananite...except, there's just one problem with his economic argument: Glenn Beck championed the Wall Street bailout he claims to be leading the fight against. In fact, when progressives were fighting tooth and nail against the bailout (and taking significant criticism for doing so) Beck was promoting it, offering criticism only for it not being bigger:
"I think the bailout is the right thing do. The "REAL STORY" is the $700 billion that you're hearing about now is not only, I believe, necessary, it is also not nearly enough, and all of the weasels in Washington know it." - Glenn Beck, CNN, 9/22/08 Read more.
From Toronto to Pittsburgh to Jay Leno, "Capitalism" Marches On
It hasn't quite hit me that "Capitalism: A Love Story," my new film, will be opening in theaters in New York and L.A. just one week from tomorrow. And everywhere else on October 2nd. Is it already the fall?
Having spent the last year and a half living pretty much under the radar and quietly putting together this movie for you, it is heartening, to say the least, to read the early reviews where Time Magazine called it "Moore's magnum opus," the Los Angeles Times has declared it my "most controversial film yet," and Variety has said that "Capitalism: A Love Story" is "one of Moore's best films." Wow. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect, considering this film is an all-out assault against the racket polite people like to call "Wall Street."
Debtor's Revolt: Woman Refuses To Pay Off Bank Of America Credit Card
By Arthur Delaney | Huffington Post
For years, Ann Minch of Red Bluff, Calif., has carried a balance of several thousand dollars on her Bank of America credit card, making minimum monthly payments of about $130, sometimes paying an extra $50 or $100. She says she's never missed a payment.
Bank of America rewarded her loyalty this year by repeatedly raising her interest rate, which reached 30 percent in July.
Fed up, the 46-year-old stepmother of two turned to YouTube.
"There comes a time when a person must be willing to sacrifice in order to take a stand for what's right," said Minch in a Sept. 8 webcam video. "Now, this is one of those times, and if I'm successful this will be the proverbial first shot fired in an American debtors' revolution against the usury and plunder perpetrated by the banking elite, the Federal Reserve and the federal government."
Minch announced that she'd be dumping Bank of America, refusing to pay off her credit card debt unless she was offered a lower rate. She explained that she'd been a reliable customer even though she'd lost her job as a mental health case manager. She said bank reps refused to negotiate her interest rate when she called them to complain a few weeks ago. Read more.
Also, there's a related article at the Tiny Revolution.
While U.S. regulators are trying to reshape financial firms considered too big to fail, an outspoken bailout watchdog is trying to crack down on big regulators.
Elizabeth Warren, head of the Congressional Oversight Panel charged with keeping an eye on the $700 billion bailout of the financial system, said bank regulators need to be stripped of their consumer protection roles.
She said regulators' recent arguments that they are best-positioned to enforce consumer protection laws do not ring true.
"It's a failed experiment," Warren told Reuters in a telephone interview late last week. "The regulators have turf to protect. They want to run big agencies with big budgets and lots of employees. The new agency would reduce some of their bureaucracy."
The Obama administration has plunked consumer protection in the center of the debate over financial regulation reform, and has proposed to create a powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
The CFPA would have broad authority to write and enforce rules to shield consumers from risky financial products and unfair practices related to mortgages, credit cards and other types of loans.
The new agency would carve out the employees charged with consumer protection at the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision, and would move them over to the new agency. Read more.
Ron Paul: Federal government ‘one giant toxic asset’
By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer | Raw Story
The US economy has not really recovered from last year’s financial crisis, and the policies of the Federal Reserve, the US’s central bank, are ensuring that the suffering will continue much longer than necessary, US House Rep. Ron Paul told CNN on Monday.
“They claim there’s a recovery but the recovery ought to be measured by the people working. True unemployment is now 16 percent, and the people who lost money have not regained the money. The people who lost houses have not gotten their houses back. There is no recovery,” said Paul.
The official unemployment rate in August was 9.7 percent, but Paul was referring to the broader unemployment measure, known as “U-6,” which measures not only the number of people looking for work but also those people who have given up looking for work. The official unemployment measure does not include people who have stopped looking for work.
In August, the broader U-6 unemployment rate was a stunning 16.8 percent, two-and-a-half percentage points higher than it was in the 1982 recession, which had been the worst recession since the Great Depression. Read more.
Shareholders urged NOT to protest genocide
By Catherine Danielson
Here's a story I doubt you will hear all about anywhere else...
American Funds is one of the largest families of investment funds ($700 billion), owned by Capital Group Companies, a huge group of investment management companies. There was a shareholder proposal made recently requesting the board to "institute procedures to prevent holding investments in companies that, in the judgment of the board, substantially contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity, the most egrigious violations of human rights."
I'm a shareholder in American Funds, so I received the proxy letter requiring me to vote on a number of proposals for the upcoming board meeting (on October 27th in LA). First, there was a list of very boring-sounding proposals about electing trustees, updating this, approving that, blah blah blah. The shareholder proposal request came LAST, and it was #8. What came FIRST was this:
To combat the financial crisis set off by the collapse of the housing bubble, the Federal Reserve Board has lent out more than $2tn through various special lending facilities. While the Fed discloses aggregate information on the loans made through each of the facilities, it will not disclose how much money it lent to specific banks or under what terms. By contrast, the Treasury puts this information about its $700bn TARP bailout up on its website.
Partly in response to this huge increase in the Fed's power (its secret lending is equal to two-thirds of the federal budget), more than 270 representatives in Congress have co-sponsored a bill that would have the Government Accountability Office audit the Fed. In principle, this audit would examine the Fed's loans and report back to the relevant congressional committees, which could decide to make this information public.
Most people might consider it perfectly reasonable to have Congress's auditing arm review what the Fed has done with $2tn of the taxpayers' money to ensure that everything is proper. After all, we wouldn't let other government agencies spend one millionth of this amount ($2m) without some sort of record that could be verified.
However, the Fed and its chairman Ben Bernanke, do not see it this way. Bernanke warned Congress last month that such an audit could jeopardise the Fed's independence, which in turn, "could raise fears about future inflation, leading to higher long-term interest rates and reduced economic and financial stability". Read more.
The Washington Post carried an article last week outlining the immense consolidation that has taken place in the US banking system as a result of the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations in response to the financial crisis.
The article, entitled “Banks ‘Too Big to Fail’ Have Grown Even Bigger,” reports how the largest banks have consolidated control over a greater share of financial markets and are using their monopolistic position to increase their profits by raising fees and interest on consumers and small businesses.
“The oligopoly has tightened,” said Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com, who is quoted in the Post article. “There’s been a significant consolidation among the big banks, and it’s kind of hollowing out the banking system,” he added.
The newspaper reports that JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America now each hold more than 10 percent of all deposits in the country. These banks, plus Citigroup, issue half of all mortgages and two-thirds of all credit card loans. In the past year alone, the ten largest banks have increased their share of bank deposits from 40.6 percent in 2007 to 48.2 percent today. Read more.
When the credit crisis struck last year, federal regulators pumped tens of billions of dollars into the nation's leading financial institutions because the banks were so big that officials feared their failure would ruin the entire financial system.
Today, the biggest of those banks are even bigger.
The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate U.S. finance. A series of federally arranged mergers safely landed troubled banks on the decks of more stable firms. And it allowed the survivors to emerge from the turmoil with strengthened market positions, giving them even greater control over consumer lending and more potential to profit. Read more.
Wall Street wants to do to life insurance what it did to housing
By Daniel Tencer | RawStory.com
The “securitization” of mortgages — bundling mortgage policies and selling them on to investors — is considered to be one of the major reasons for last year’s financial collapse.
Now, Wall Street banks want to do it all again — but this time, with life insurance policies instead of real estate.
The New York Times reports that large investment banks are lining up to begin securitizing “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell so that they can get cash before they die.
According to the Times:
[Banks] plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.
The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money. Read more.
American Monetary Institute 2009 Conference: “We Shall Prevail”
by Richard C. Cook
The world’s most important gathering of monetary reformers takes place each year in Chicago at the American Monetary Institute’s annual conference. This year’s event takes place September 24-27 at Roosevelt University. Chairing the conference is Stephen Zarlenga, AMI director and author of the landmark book “The Lost Science of Money.” For information and the list of speakers, including monetary economist Michael Hudson, see the AMI website. While personal matters will prevent me from appearing on-site, I have sent the following remarks. Segments of my six-part DVD, “Credit as a Public Utility,” will also be shown.
It is not difficult to come up with methods to solve today’s economic crisis through monetary reform. Many of us are doing it. The key, as I have been writing for the past several years, is to treat credit as a public utility, not the private property of the world’s financial elite.
If we truly adhered to this concept, we would be able to see that a debt-based monetary system, where money only comes into existence through bank lending, can succeed only in isolated circumstances when a growth bubble outpaces the ability of the public to pay interest charges for the privilege of having money to spend and thereby to survive.
The 20 financial firms that have received the most bailout money from the government have, in the three years through 2008, awarded their top five executives pay packages worth a combined $3.2 billion, according to a study released Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank.
The report, titled “America’s Bailout Barons,” found CEOs at those financial institutions that received a government handout received compensation averaging $13.8 million – 37 percent higher than the $10.1 million average for executives at Standard & Poor’s 500 companies last year.
The report suggests the increase in wages comes on the backs of workers. It found that the top 20 recipients of bailout aid have laid off more than 160,000 employees combined since Jan. 1, 2008. The $3.2 billion payout that has gone to the top five executives of these 20 companies over the past three years would bankroll 66 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits for 160,000 workers, based on the average unemployment benefit payment of $299.49 a week, according to the study.
“Unfortunately, despite this new and broad consensus over the dangers inherent in excessive executive remuneration, the denizens of our nation’s executive suites still go about their business with the same visions of compensation sugarplums that danced in their heads before last September,” the report’s authors note....Click here to read the full report. Read more.
CEO's Earning 300 Times More Than the Average Worker
By Dan Arnall | ABC Newser
The overall CEO-to-worker pay gap is exceptionally high; S&P 500 CEOs in 2008 earned 319 times more than the average worker.
The liberal think tank Institute for Policy Studies is out with a report on excessive executive pay in the biggest 20 TARP banks. The findings show that the top five executives at each of these big financial firms earned an average of $32 million each during the 2005 -- 2008 time period.
The study has been published for the past 15 years, but this year the authors decided to focus on the pay of executives at the financial firms which got exceptional government assistance as the economy melted down last fall. Some of the highlights: Read more.
Getting investments on the cheap earlier this year is yielding big rewards for Wall Street's top brass: Thanks to the rebounding stock market, two credit card company chief executives have seen their compensation jump by more than $34 million while 22 other top bank execs also saw rich gains, according to a new report released today.
A study by the Institute for Policy Studies has found that the value of stock options granted in early 2009 to American Express Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault rose by nearly $18 million as of mid-August. Fellow CEO Richard D. Fairbank, of Capital One, saw his stock options grow by $16.3 million during the same period.
IPS, a liberal think tank, found that Chenault and Fairbank were among two dozen executives at eight major financial institutions to see their 2009 stock options jump by a total of nearly $90 million. Read more.
And so the guns come out blazing. The Clearing House Association, another name for all the banks that were bailed out over the past year with the generous contributions from all of you, dear taxpayers, are now threatening with another instance of complete systemic collapse if Bloomberg's lawsuit is allowed to proceed unchallenged, let alone if any of the "Audit The Fed" measures are actually implemented.
As a reminder, The Clearing House Association consists of ABN Amro, Bank Of America, The Bank Of New York, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank and Wells Fargo.
In a declaration filed in the Bloomberg Case (08-CV-9595, Southern District of New York), the banks demonstrate no shame in attempting to perpetuate the status quo with regard to the Federal Reserve and demand that the wool over the eyes of the general population remain firmly planted in perpetuity.
The Clearing House submits this declaration because the Court's Order threatens to impair the ability of our members to access emergency funds through the New York Fed's Discount Window without suffering the severe competitive harm that public disclosure of their identity will cause.
Our members have accessed the New York Fed's Discount Window with the understanding that the Fed will not publicly disclose information about their borrowing, especially their identity. Industry experience, including very recent and searing experience, has shown that negative rumors about a bank's financial condition - even completely unfounded rumors - have caused competitive harm, including bank runs and failures.
For background on this alarming, "take no prisoners" approach by the bankers, see bink's blog at Daily Kos, "The Secret That Will Destroy the World's Financial System." It starts out this way:
There's a secret out there.
A secret so incredible, so horrifying, so toxic that if the public ever heard about it, it would destroy the world's financial system....In November of last year, the Bloomberg news organization sued the Federal Reserve bank of the United States. The goal of the suit was to force the Fed to disclose information on the alphabet soup of lending programs it created in 2008 to help prop up Wall St. banks. Read more.
Growing Poverty and Despair in America
By Stephen Lendman
In 1962, Michael Harrington's "The Other America" exposed the nation's dark underside enough for John Kennedy to ask his Council of Economic Advisor chairman, Walter Heller, to look into the problem and for Lyndon Johnson to say (on January 8, 1964) that his administration "today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America."
In fact, it was little more than a skirmish that fell way short of addressing the real problem in the world's richest nation. Today it's even greater and increasing exponentially under a president who, unlike Johnson, declared war on the poor and disadvantaged to favor privilege over growing needs and essential social change.
In his book, Harrington wrote:
"In morality and in justice every citizen should be committed to abolishing the other America, for it is intolerable that the richest nation in human history should allow such needless suffering. But more than that, if we solve the problem of the other America we will have learned how to solve the problems of all of America." Sadly, we didn't then nor have we now.
BURLINGTON, Vt., Aug. 25 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed a court ruling that the Federal Reserve must reveal the names of banks that have received more than $2.2 trillion in secret loans.
Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska yesterday rejected the Fed’s argument that loan records are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has refused requests from Sanders and others to make public the names or loan recipients.
“This court decision is a victory for the American taxpayer. The American people have a right to know exactly who has received trillions of dollars from the Federal Reserve and what they are doing with this money. The Federal Reserve has kept this information secret for far too long. This money does not belong to the Fed. It belongs to the American people,” Sanders said.
“No one should have the power to print an unlimited supply of money and lend it to any bank or corporation it wants without accountability or oversight. This court ruling is an important step forward in increasing transparency at the Federal Reserve,” he added. “I hope it will not be appealed.”
The American Monetary Institute is holding its 5th Annual AMI Monetary Reform Conference on Sept. 24-27, 2009 at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Invited speakers include:
- Stephen Zarlenga, opens the Conference: AMI's Purpose, Objectives and Methodology
- Congressman Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth
- Prof. William Black will speak on Fraud's Critical Role in Producing the Financial Crisis
- Richard Cook will speak on: Democratization of the Monetary System
- William Bergman discusses Current Crucial Issues in Banking
- Chris Lindstrom speaks on The Myth of Money - The Spirit of Berkshares
- Prof. Michael Hudson speaks on The Key elements of How Real Monetary Reform Should Proceed
- Dr. Norman Ehrentreich and Prof. Michael Hudson "What's Next?"
- Michelle St. Pierre on Turning Talk into Political Action. How to sell the American Monetary Act to the American People and Congress
- Robert Poteat, will speak on the Moral Implications of Monetary Reform
- Jamie Walton on "The American Monetary Act - Why all Three Elements are necessary, and What they will do."
- Dr. Edward Chambers President of the Industrial Areas Foundation (the IAF) discusses: Organizing for Power, Action and Justice
- Nicolaus Tideman, Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech speaks on How Banks will Compete After the Reforms Needed for Stable Money and Stable Banking are in place
- Dick Distelhorst will present on What Must Be Done Now?
- Dr. Cay Hehner, Director, Henry George School of Social Science, NY, on "The End of Capitalism as we Know it"
- Reed Simpson will describe The Chinese Monetary System - Lessons & Cautions
- David I. Kelley discusses on the The Politics of Monetary Reform and Economic Justice
- Ben Dyson will discuss The Monetary Reform Situation in Great Britain & present a video interview with James Robertson
- Will Abrams of Canada presents the Reforms Instituted By Gerald Gratton McGeer
- Laurene Huffman presents Faith Based Financing - Islamic Lending in the United States
Sen. Sanders Statement on Bernanke Nomination | Press Release
BURLINGTON, Vt. – Aug. 25 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today issued the following statement on the nomination of Ben S. Bernanke for another term as chairman of the Federal Reserve:
"As a result of the greed, irresponsibility and illegal behavior of Wall Street our country has experienced the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. Mr. Bernanke was head of the Fed and the nation's chief economist as this crisis, driven by reckless speculation, developed. Tragically, like the rest of the Bush administration, he was asleep at the wheel during this period and did nothing to move our financial system onto safer grounds.
“As the middle class of this country continues to shrink, we need a chairman of the Federal Reserve who is more concerned about expanding the productive economy – increasing decent-paying jobs for all Americans – than continuing to fan the flames of Wall Street greed and outrageous compensation packages.”
Contact: Michael Briggs or Will Wiquist (202) 224-5141
Obama's failure to act sends one message loud and clear: He cannot stand up to the powerful Wall Street interests that supplied the bulk of his campaign money for the 2008 election. Nor, for that matter, can Congress, for much the same reason.
The American government -- which we once called our government -- has been taken over by Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich. They are the ones who decide our fate. It is this group of powerful elites, the people President Franklin D. Roosevelt called "economic royalists," who choose our elected officials -- indeed, our very form of government. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of their corporate masters. In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government.
This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars. So arrogant, so smug were they that, without a moment's hesitation, they took our money -- yours and mine -- to pay their executives multimillion-dollar bonuses, something they continue doing to this very day. They have no shame. They don't care what you and I think about them. Henry Kissinger refers to us as "useless eaters."
But, you say, we have elected a candidate of change. To which I respond: Do these words of President Obama sound like change? Read more.
The Obstacles to Real Health Care Reform: Private Insurers and Big PhRMA
By Stephen Lendman
In almost the same breath on August 17, the White House effectively dropped a real public option (that likely never existed) while Obama was telling the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) that the Pentagon will escalate the Afghanistan/Pakistan war into a long-term conflict that will assure "more difficult days ahead." He did so in defiance of international and Constitutional law, the lives and welfare of American forces, millions in both target countries, and lied at the same time saying: "This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity" in plain contradiction of the fact that in October 2001, US forces launched a long-planned premeditated attack against a non-belligerent country posing no threat to America.
When does the willful blindness in terms of bank fraud taking place daily in the so-called "marks" on housing-related loans stop?
The Mortgage Bankers Association released its latest update:
The non-seasonally adjusted delinquency rate increased 64 basis points from 8.22 percent in the first quarter of 2009 to 8.86 percent this quarter.
The delinquency rate includes loans that are at least one payment past due but does not include loans somewhere in the process of foreclosure. The percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of the second quarter was 4.30 percent, an increase of 45 basis points from the first quarter of 2009 and 155 basis points from one year ago. The combined percentage of loans in foreclosure and at least one payment past due was 13.16 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the highest ever recorded in the MBA delinquency survey.
That's right folks. That means that of all mortgage loans 13.16% are not in "accrual" status - that is, they're not performing in that interest and principal are not being paid. This is no longer about "subprime" - it is now all about prime loans; the claim that this was going to be "contained' is now proved false.
That our banks are not being forced to take the marks associated with these delinquencies is an outrage. It is the cause of the FDIC's losses, it is the cause of our credit system remaining locked up, and it is the cause of our continued moribund economy, as without a functioning credit system there can be no actual economic recovery.
These institutions are being protected by our Congress and the willful, intentional blindness of The Federal Reserve, FDIC, OTS and OCC.
These agencies and persons have the same data that is being released to the market. The stock market continues to rally not based on improving economics but based on the federal government and The Federal Reserve continuing to allow institutions to LIE about their financial condition and the expectation that the LIES will be permitted to continue! Read more.
"Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union," by David Swanson is due in stores September 1st, but the publisher has it now and you can get it straight from Seven Stories Press.
I've done a lot of writing about HOAs and the egregious plague they are for whoever is unfortunate enough to find themselves subjugated to their tyranny, but now there is a more pressing problem that has its origins from the same misguided, nefarious source. That, of course, would be healthcare.
In 1889, the Supreme Court decided a case, Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad v.Beckwith, which declared that a corporation is a "person", with regard to due process and equal protection under the Constitution. That is, you, and a stack of contracts, a "paper man" if you will, attained equal standing under the law. What a disaster. This decision set this country on the path that is responsible for the deplorable situation we now find ourselves in.
In effect, we are now a nation of "corporate citizens", who have the power and resources to shape the society in ways that would have been met with skepticism even a generation ago. We are governed by an increasingly isolated and incestuous group of figureheads, who prostitute themselves willingly for even the slightest chance of licking up the crumbs left for them by the corporations. It's "Rollerball" for real.
Obama, who managed to instill a sense of hope the likes of which hadn't been seen for fifty years, turned out to be nothing more than a great orator with almost no capacity for true leadership. Lacking the will to really fight for the things he supposedly believes in, he parades around speaking platitudes about "special interests" and "bipartisan solutions". On closer inspection however it turns out he has surrounded himself with the same cast of corrupt characters, shills for corporate America, who have no real desire to do anything that would truly "... promote the general welfare ...", as stated in the Constitution, for "We The People". To paraphrase Hollywood, in this case "The Best Man", Obama has "no sense of right or wrong, no sense of responsibility to anyone or anything, only to what works. That is a tragedy in a man and a disaster in a president". Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
Bill Clinton was the worst thing to happen to the Democratic Party and to progressives since that racist warmonger Woodrow Wilson won the presidency and dragged the US into the utterly pointless and incredibly bloody First World War.
Clinton, by posing as a progressive, confused and undermined, and ultimately betrayed the liberal/progressive wing of the party, shattering what was left of the New Deal coalition and leaving the American left adrift and riven by the conflict between those who thought the Democratic Party was the only viable vehicle for progressive reform and those who thought it was hopelessly in the grip of corporate interests.
Barack Obama offers the hope of bringing that era of debilitating confusion to an end.
Is there a ticking time-bomb for the US economy? And is the Obama administration, Congress, and the media not paying it sufficient attention? That seems to be the message of a government report released this week that drew not as much notice as it deserves.
This is all about those toxic assets--now euphemistically referred to by the US government as "legacy assets"--that were at the core of the economic meltdown. Though some economic news of late has been not so bad--economic contraction slowing, job losses leveling off, banks passing stress tests--these toxic assets still pollute the nation's financial system and endanger it. Read more.
...Missed payments by consumers, builders and small businesses pushed 72 lenders into failure this year, the most since 1992. More collapses may lie ahead as the recession causes increased defaults and swells the confidential U.S. list of “problem banks,” which stood at 305 in the first quarter....“These numbers are off the charts,” said Blake Howells, an analyst at Becker Capital Management in Portland, Oregon, referring to the nonperforming loan levels at companies he follows. Banks are losing the “ability to try and earn their way through the cycle,”...While 5 percent can be “fatal” for home lenders,...“Once it gets around 10 percent, you’re likely toast.”
More than 150 publicly traded U.S. lenders own nonperforming loans that equal 5 percent or more of their holdings, a level that former regulators say can wipe out a bank’s equity and threaten its survival.
The number of banks exceeding the threshold more than doubled in the year through June, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as real estate and credit-card defaults surged. Almost 300 reported 3 percent or more of their loans were nonperforming, a term for commercial and consumer debt that has stopped collecting interest or will no longer be paid in full. Read more.
Global Depression and Regional Wars - Reviewing James Petras' New Book: Part I
By Stephen Lendman
James Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Besides his long and distinguished academic career, he's a noted figure on the left, a well-respected Latin American expert, and a longtime chronicler of the region' popular struggles. He's also a prolific author of hundreds of articles and dozens of books, most recently his new one titled, "Global Depression and Regional Wars" addressing America, Latin America and the Middle East.
Part I - Global Depression
Variety's famous October 30, 1929 headline is again relevant: "Wall Street Lays an Egg," or as economist Rick Wolff puts it: "Capitalism hit the fan" following a familiar pattern of boom and bust cycles punctuated by bubbles that always burst. Petras explains it this way:
"All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades have crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigms and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch (and bearing witness to) the collapse of the US and world financial system."
Grim prospects are ahead:
- a world depression with one-fourth of the labor force unemployed;
- global trade in free fall;
- a proliferation of bankruptcies with General Motors a metaphor for a decaying system;
- free-market capitalism in disrepute; and
- "planning, public ownership, nationalization(s and other) socialist alternatives have become almost respectable" because most sacred cow "truisms" and solutions have failed.