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They Lied: Watchdog Says Treasury and Fed Knew Bailed-Out Banks Were Not 'Healthy'

They Lied: Watchdog Says Treasury and Fed Knew Bailed-Out Banks Were Not 'Healthy'
Before the $700B Bailout, Senior Government Officials Had Financial Concerns About Nine Bank Institutions Receiving TARP Funds
By Matthew Jaffe | ABC News

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve lied to the American public last fall when they said that the first nine banks to receive government bailout funds were healthy, a government watchdog states in a new report released today.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), says that despite multiple statements on Oct. 14 of last year that these nine banks were healthy and only receiving government funds for the good of the country's economy, federal officials knew otherwise.

"Contemporaneous reports and officials' statements to SIGTARP during this audit indicate that there were concerns about the health of several of the nine institutions at that time and, as detailed in this report, that their overall selection was far more a result of the officials' belief in their importance to a system that was viewed as being vulnerable to collapse than concerns about their individual health and viability," Barofsky says. Read more.

Kucinich Urges Treasury to Strengthen Re-remic Oversight

Kucinich Urges Treasury to Strengthen Re-remic Oversight | Press Release

Washington. D.C. (October 1, 2009) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to address the potential threat to the financial system posed by resecuritization of existing residential mortgage backed securities, informally referred to as ‘re-remic.’ Congressman Kucinich recently brought the matter to the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission and uncovered that only $50 million of a $664 billion market is overseen by the SEC.

The Re-remic process takes previously issued residential mortgage backed securities and collateralized debt obligations whose value has deteriorated considerably, and repackages them into larger, more complex financial instruments in an attempt to create investment-grade products once again. Investors and analysts alike have stated concerns that re-remics could be used to hide toxic assets and manipulate capital requirements. In the letter, Kucinich called on Secretary Geithner to create a stronger regulatory framework to ensure that financial institutions are not continuing practices that led the financial system to the brink of collapse in 2008.

The full text of the letter follows:

Michael Moore: Free Screenings Tonight of "Capitalism" for the Jobless and Homeless in America's Hardest Hit Cities

Free Screenings Tonight of "Capitalism" for the Jobless and Homeless in America's Hardest Hit Cities
Plus Local Benefit Premieres All Across the Country

Michael Moore wrote:


We're just one day away from the widest opening I've ever had for any of my movies. Tomorrow, Friday, October 2nd, "Capitalism: A Love Story" opens on over a thousand screens across the United States, a record for an independent documentary.

This follows last weekend's limited opening in New York and L.A. where "Capitalism" set the box office record for the highest per screen average of ANY movie released so far this year. Not just any documentary -- any MOVIE! It was, as the studio said, a good indicator of just how well the movie may do when it goes wide this weekend. I sincerely hope they're right because I believe deeply in this film.

To kick off the national release of "Capitalism: A Love Story," I've asked the studio to offer a number of screenings in the nation's hardest hit cities -- the ones with the highest unemployment rates and highest foreclosure rates -- where those who've lost their jobs or who are in foreclosure (or have already been evicted) may attend my film free of charge. They've agreed, and so tonight (Thursday), the night before our opening day, ten cities will grant you free admission if you have fallen on hard times. The list of theaters and cities is below. You don't need to bring any "proof" of your situation -- just show up -- it's the honor system, no questions asked.

Las Vegas, Nevada Phoenix, Arizona
Fresno, California Saginaw, Michigan
Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina Tampa / St. Petersburg, Florida
Elkhart, Indiana Baltimore, Maryland
Cleveland, Ohio Peoria, Illinois


Click for more, including today's locations and times.

Kucinich: ‘Is Wall Street Headed for Collapse?’

Kucinich: ‘Is Wall Street Headed for Collapse?’

Questions Repackaging of Complex Financial Instruments, Calls for Additional Hearings

Washington D.C. (September 30, 2009) –Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today questioned whether the U.S. would be headed for another financial crisis if Wall Street continues to sell the same old products, with new names, that got us into trouble in the first place. The former Managing Director of Moody’s Investor Service, Mr. Ilya Eric Kolchinsky, agreed there is a danger. The admission came during an Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing examining the role of credit rating agencies in the financial crisis. Following the admission, Kucinich called for further Committee hearings to examine the renamed investment instruments.

Exclusive: Check Fees, ATM Charges, Monthly Service Fees Hit Record Highs

Exclusive: Check Fees, ATM Charges, Monthly Service Fees Hit Record Highs
Public Outrage as Banks Squeeze More and More From Consumers
By Elisabeth Leamy, Vanessa Weber and Suzan Clarke | ABC News

Bounced-check fees, ATM surcharges and monthly checking account service charges have soared to record highs, according to a study released today in an exclusive story on "Good Morning America."

In a growing trend, bounced-check fees increased 2.1 percent to an average of $29.58 -- and that's just the cost of the first bounced check.

"Banks have become reliant on fee income as a way to diversify their revenue over the last decade or so," said Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at "That strategy is paying dividends, but it's coming at the cost to consumers who don't have good financial habits."

In the August survey of large, small and online banking institutions across the nation, found that 26 percent of banks used a tiered structure to impose progressively higher fees for multiple overdrafts during a 12-month period. The average climbs to nearly $34 for the second, third and fourth bounced checks. Read more.

It's Congress: Don't Forget to Wash Your Hands After Hearings

By Dave Lindorff

Some years ago, my wife and I, together with our young daughter, took a circuitous summer train trip through France, Italy, Austria and Germany. The last leg was an overnight express from Berlin that deposited us at the Gare du Nord in Paris just at sunrise. Feeling washed out from the ride, we made our separate ways to the facilities. I was standing at the urinal with a bunch of other men, relieving myself, when I heard this awful groaning coming from a stall. The groaning grew louder and more painful sounding. Some guy was obviously having a terrible time with his bowels. The agony continued, to the point that we who were by now washing our hands at the sinks were looking at each other in puzzlement, wondering what was going on. I even wondered if someone should ask if the poor wretch if he needed help.

Cocktail Napkin Economics: The Banking System Is Insolvent

The Banking System Is Insolvent | The Market Ticker

Following up on the quick mention now that I have a story to cite from Amherst:

Cure rates for these distressed loans remain low. Amherst noted a near 0% cure rate of all loans in foreclosure, 0.8% for 90 plus days delinquent, 4.4% for 60 days delinquent and 26.5% for 30-day delinquencies. All told, Amherst expects 12.42% of units (from the 13.54% of properties delinquent and in foreclosure) to eventually liquidate.

Let's put some numbers on this.

There are roughly 125 million single-family homes in the US.

Of those, roughly 30% have no mortgage on them at all. This leaves 87.5 million single-family homes with mortgages.

Let us assume the average outstanding balance is $200,000 across the entire set and will take a 40% loss severity. This is less than S&P has estimated for subprime loans and only assumes a roughly 20% market deficiency in the home price (the rest is from legal, rehabilitation and marketing expenses.)

These numbers are, with a high degree of confidence (90%+) low - that is, losses will exceed these estimates, perhaps dramatically so. It is, for example, quite reasonable to believe that due to the concentration of defaults in higher-priced areas (e.g. California and Florida) that the average outstanding balance could be close to double that $200,000 value and the loss due to negative equity higher.

From this we can develop a "cocktail napkin" view of the losses to be taken in home mortgages for single-family homes (remember, this does not include condos, apartment buildings and similar "commercial" paper.) Read more.

FDIC Asks Banks For Help

FDIC asks banks for help
The agency raised its estimated bank failure tab and wants banks to kick in $45 billion to shore up the deposit insurance fund.
By Colin Barr | Fortune/CNN

The banking bust is getting mighty costly.

Bank regulators on Tuesday sharply raised their estimate of the cost of cleaning up after bank failures -- and proposed sending the industry a $45 billion tab to shore up the dwindling deposit insurance fund.

The staff of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said it expects expenses tied to failed banks to surge to $100 billion over five years -- up 43% from the agency's last estimate in May.

As a result of the rising costs and the pressures on the agency's cash position, the FDIC proposed that banks prepay their deposit insurance premiums for the next three years at the end of December.

The move would head off a cash crunch at the fund that stands behind consumers' bank deposits.

The FDIC said the fund, under strain from 95 bank failures this year, will have a negative balance when the third quarter ends Wednesday and will run out of cash by the end of the first quarter next year. Over the past year, the deposit insurance fund balance has dropped to $10 billion from $45 billion. Read more.

It's Fun Watching Rep. Grayson At Work. He's The Kind of Democrat We Need

It's Fun Watching Rep. Grayson At Work. He's The Kind of Democrat We Need
By Susie Madrak | Crooks & Liars

Turns out Matt Taibbi is already acquainted with Rep. Alan Grayson. Here's his backstory ((and remember, reward good behavior):

Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul and others keep hammering away at this whole Fed-secrecy issue, and every now and then we get some pretty interesting exchanges. Zero Hedge relates this one between Grayson and Fed counsel Scott Alvarez. It’s becoming abundantly clear that at some point we’re going to start to hear details about monstrous front-running operations involving the major banks on Wall Street. Read more.

U.S. Fed To Work With Lawmakers On Naming Borrowers

U.S. Fed to work with lawmakers on naming borrowers | Reuters

"I would say, however, that that's different from saying that after a suitable time period, so that there won't be this market effect, you don't have a right to go to a federal agency, borrow money and keep it secret forever," added Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.

The Federal Reserve is willing to work with U.S. lawmakers on ways to release names of companies that borrow from the central bank after a time lag so the disclosures do not disrupt markets, a Fed official said.

Scott Alvarez, the Fed's general counsel, told the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Friday that the idea was "something that we're giving serious consideration with and we'd be happy to work with you on."

Alvarez, testifying on proposed legislation that would subject the Fed to audits by the Government Accountability Office, said that allowing reviews of the Fed's monetary policy deliberations would undermine the U.S. central bank's independence and credibility.

The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.

But he was asked by the committee's chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, if the Fed would cooperate on changes to the legislation that would provide more disclosures on firms that borrow from the Fed's discount window and on its open market operations.

"I do believe it's important that there be a time lag before information is released about who bought what, and who went where, so that you -- this does not become information on which people act in the market," Frank said. Read more.

How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?

How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? Lead letter to the New York Times Magazine: September 16, 2009 | Submitted by Michael Munk |

Paul Krugman's How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?" (September 6, 2009) offers a refreshing, critical assessment of the academic profession of economics and how it missed the recent economic collapse. While addressing the standard textbook issues in mainstream economics, Krugman seems oblivious to one area of the field that has warned of deep, cyclical crises in capitalism since its inception: Marxist economics. You do not have to believe in revolution or the proletarian struggle to appreciate the centrality of secular crises for this economic tradition. Marx was wrong about a lot of things, but he seems to have been on target when pointing out at least two problems: the severity and depth of periodic crises and the rise of financial speculation.

Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.

Here's the article Diego commented on:

How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?
By Paul Krugman | NYTimes


It’s hard to believe now, but not long ago economists were congratulating themselves over the success of their field. Those successes — or so they believed — were both theoretical and practical, leading to a golden era for the profession. On the theoretical side, they thought that they had resolved their internal disputes. Thus, in a 2008 paper titled “The State of Macro” (that is, macroeconomics, the study of big-picture issues like recessions), Olivier Blanchard of M.I.T., now the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, declared that “the state of macro is good.” The battles of yesteryear, he said, were over, and there had been a “broad convergence of vision.” And in the real world, economists believed they had things under control: the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved,” declared Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago in his 2003 presidential address to the American Economic Association. In 2004, Ben Bernanke, a former Princeton professor who is now the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, celebrated the Great Moderation in economic performance over the previous two decades, which he attributed in part to improved economic policy making.

Last year, everything came apart. Read more.

The Mystique of “Free-Market Guy” Obama

The Mystique of “Free-Market Guy” Obama
By Jeff Cohen

Friends helping friends: please forward this to your closest relatives/friends still enthralled by the Obama mystique.

No matter what the facts are, some liberal activists and leaders persist in seeing President Obama as a principled progressive reformer who lives and breathes the campaign rhetoric about “change you can believe in.”

When he compromises, it’s not Obama’s fault – it’s the opposition. Retreat is never a sell-out but a shrewd tactic, part of some secret long-range strategy for triumphant reform.

He’s been in the White House eight months. It’s time for activists take a harder look at Obama. And a more assertive posture toward him.

Government Watchdog: 'Extremely Unlikely' Taxpayers Will Recoup TARP Money

Government Watchdog: 'Extremely Unlikely' Taxpayers Will Recoup TARP Money
As Anniversary Nears, Lawmakers Told Taxpayers Won't See a Full Return on $700 Billion Bailout Program
By Matthew Jaffe | ABC News

The controversial $700 billion bailout program has helped avert the collapse of the financial system, but the chances of taxpayers recouping the money are "extremely unlikely," a government watchdog believes.

In prepared testimony to be delivered at a Senate Banking Committee hearing today ahead of the one-year anniversary of the enactment of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bailout's special inspector general tells lawmakers that it is "unclear" if the government will meet its goal of "maximiz[ing] overall returns to the taxpayer."

"While several TARP recipients have repaid funds for what has widely been reported as a 17 percent profit, it is extremely unlikely that the taxpayer will see a full return on its TARP investment," Neil Barofsky says. "For example, certain TARP programs, such as the mortgage modification program which is scheduled to use $50 billion of TARP funds, will yield no direct return, and for others, including the extraordinary assistance programs to AIG and the auto companies, full recovery is far from certain." Read more.

Wall Street Pursues Profit in Bundles of Life Insurance

Wall Street Pursues Profit in Bundles of Life Insurance
By Jenny Anderson | NY Times

After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they 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.

Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them. But some who have studied life settlements warn that insurers might have to raise premiums in the short term if they end up having to pay out more death claims than they had anticipated.

The idea is still in the planning stages. Read more.

At Current Pace, Stimulus Won’t be Fully Tapped For Another Two Years

At Current Pace, Stimulus Won’t be Fully Tapped For Another Two Years
By Christopher Flavelle | ProPublica

Over the last four weeks, federal agencies have spent an average of $614 million a day on stimulus projects and grants, according to data from and compiled by ProPublica. At that rate, it would take two years, one month, and 26 days to spend the rest of the $483 billion set aside for grants and projects. That means the stimulus would wrap up in November 2011.

We’ve just updated our Stimulus Progress Bar, which shows that total project and grant spending now stands at $98 billion, up about $4 billion from a week ago. That translates to about $570 million a day in new stimulus spending over the past week—a torrent of money in any other context, but a mere trickle compared to the $1.3 billion in daily stimulus spending during the first 100 days of the Recovery Act.

Bank Lobby Defeats Obama Reform Plan

Bank lobby defeats Obama reform plan
Hill resisting financial plan
By Sean Lengell | Washington Times

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.

The Economy Is A Lie, Too

The Economy Is A Lie, Too
By Paul Craig Roberts | Information Clearing House

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 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.

The Beck Bank Bailout: Glenn Beck Championed the Wall Street Bailout He Now Criticizes

The Beck Bank Bailout: Glenn Beck Championed the Wall Street Bailout He Now Criticizes
By David Sirota | Open Left

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.

Note from Michael Moore: From Toronto to Pittsburgh to Jay Leno, "Capitalism" Marches On

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

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.

U.S. Bailout Cop Seeks To Shrink Big Regulators

U.S. bailout cop seeks to shrink big regulators
By Karey Wutkowski | Reuters

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’

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

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:

What Exactly Did The Fed Do With $2 Trillion?

What exactly did the Fed do with $2tn?
Despite Ben Bernanke's protestations, Congress must be given full access to audit the Federal Reserve's loans expenditure
By Dean Baker |

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.

Big Banks Grow More Powerful Under Obama

Big banks grow more powerful under Obama
By Andre Damon | WSWS

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, 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.

Banks 'Too Big to Fail' Have Grown Even Bigger

Banks 'Too Big to Fail' Have Grown Even Bigger
Behemoths Born of the Bailout Reduce Consumer Choice, Tempt Corporate Moral Hazard
By David Cho | Washington Post | August 28, 2009

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

Wall Street wants to do to life insurance what it did to housing
By Daniel Tencer |

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”

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.

Bailout Bank Execs Compensated Nicely

Bailout bank execs compensated nicely | The Business Journal of Milwaukee

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.


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