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Banking is the industry that failed. Banks are meant to allocate capital to businesses and consumers efficiently; instead, they ladled credit to anyone who wanted it. Banks are supposed to make money by skilfully managing the risk of transforming short-term debt into long-term loans; instead, they were undone by it. They are supposed to expedite the flow of credit through economies; instead, they ended up blocking it.
The costs of this failure are massive. Frantic efforts by governments to save their financial systems and buoy their economies will do long-term damage to public finances. The IMF reckons that average government debt for the richer G20 countries will exceed 100% of GDP in 2014, up from 70% in 2000 and just 40% in 1980.
Despite public rage over bank bail-outs, the industry has also comprehensively failed its owners. The scale of wealth destruction for shareholders has been breathtaking. The total market capitalisation of the industry fell by more than half in 2008, erasing all the gains it had made since 2003 (see chart 1).
Employees have scarcely done better. The popular perception of bankers as Porsche-driving sociopaths obscures the fact that many of the industry’s staff are modestly paid and sit in branches, information-technology departments and call-centres. Job losses in the industry have been savage. “Being done” used to refer to hearing about your annual bonus. Now it means getting fired. America’s financial-services firms have shed almost half a million jobs since the peak in December 2006, more than half of them in the past seven months. Many have gone for good. Read more.
Charles Ganske of Russia Blog excerpted a portion of Simon Johnson's May 2009 article at the Atlantic Monthly titled, "The Quiet Coup." The author, Professor Johnson, served as director of the International Monetary Fund from 2007 to 2008, and currently is an academic economist at MIT's Sloan School of Management. Here are a few provocative excerpts:
...at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or—here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique—the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk—at least until the riots grow too large....
Instead, the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system. Once, perhaps, what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. The banking-and-securities industry has become one of the top contributors to political campaigns, but at the peak of its influence, it did not have to buy favors the way, for example, the tobacco companies or military contractors might have to. Instead, it benefited from the fact that Washington insiders already believed that large financial institutions and free-flowing capital markets were crucial to America’s position in the world.
Greenspan Says Banks Still Have a ‘Large’ Capital Requirement
By Alison Fitzgerald | Bloomberg
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan signaled that the financial crisis has yet to end even as borrowing costs tumble, warning that U.S. banks must raise “large” amounts of money.
“There is still a very large unfunded capital requirement in the commercial banking system in the United States and that’s got to be funded,” Greenspan said in an interview yesterday in Washington. He also said that “until the price of homes flattens out we still have a very serious potential mortgage crisis.”
Greenspan’s comments suggest he sees a bigger capital shortfall in the banking system than reflected in regulators’ stress tests on the 19 biggest U.S. lenders. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told lawmakers yesterday that banks have issued more than $56 billion in new stock or debt since the tests found 10 firms needed to raise about $75 billion. Read more.
US financial institutions will repay $25bn (£16bn) of bail-out funds over the next year, the US Treasury says.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told US Congress the money will be used to further assist institutions in need of financial help.
Including the anticipated repayment, he estimated that $123.7bn was left from the the $700bn financial bail-out fund approved by Congress in October. Read more.
"Over the Rainbow"
By Stephen Lendman
This writer just completed a six-part series on Ellen Brown's remarkable 2007 book titled "Web of Debt." This article follows from it by picking up on the theme she struck, using L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" as a combination parable, monetary allegory, and political manifesto for change at a time it's most needed.
Published in 1900 as an American fairytale, it became a popular staple, later made into the classic 1939 film staring Judy Garland, the 1975 award-winning Broadway musical, The Wiz, featuring the first-ever all-black cast, followed by a hit film on the stage production.
As Brown explained, who would have thought this "charming tale....was drawn from that most obscure and tedious of subjects, banking and finance," and (in the wrong hands) the chokehold they have on societies. Who understood that it was "all about people power, manifesting your dreams, (and) finding what you wanted in your own backyard." Who also could have imagined that "the real-life folk heros who inspired (Baum's) plot may have had the answer to" today's global economic crisis.
Brown began by quoting Hans Schicht in a 2005 editorial headlined "The Death of Banking and Macro Politics" in which he stated:
"Through a network of anonymous financial spider webbing only a handful of global King Bankers own and control it all....Everybody, people, enterprise, State and foreign countries, all have become slaves chained to the Banker's credit ropes."
Reviewing Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt:" Part VI
By Stephen Lendman
This is the sixth and final article on Ellen Brown's superb 2007 book titled "Web of Debt," now updated in a December 2008 third edition. It tells "the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free." This article focuses on establishing a people-oriented banking system. It's high time we had one and reclaimed what's rightfully ours.
Restoring National Sovereignty with A Truly National Banking System
One serving everyone, not powerful moneychangers alone, the so-called Money Trust cartel of Wall Street bankers looting the national wealth for themselves and heading the country for bankruptcy, tyranny and ruin. Stopping them is Job One, and only mass activist outrage can do it.
At the Chicago Democratic National Convention, William Jennings Bryan won the nomination saying:
"(W)e believe that the right to coin money and issue money is a function of government....I stand with Jefferson (and say), as he did, that the issue of money is a function of the government and that banks should go out of the governing business....(W)hen we have restored the money of the Constitution, all other necessary reforms will be possible, and....until that is done there is no reform that can be accomplished."
Yes, you can pay off all your personal debts -- as I have, with 100% of my mortgage paid off and zero credit card or any other debts. But that won't save you from the ravages of bailout-based inflation. When money loses its value due to inflation -– as it will very shortly -- it's almost as bad as paying interest, or high taxes.
Reviewing Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt:" Part V
By Stephen Lendman
This is the fifth of several articles on Ellen Brown's superb 2007 book titled "Web of Debt," now updated in a December 2008 third edition. It tells "the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free." This article focuses on taking back our money power.
Recapturing What's Ours and Turning Scarcity to Abundance
In 1952, Norman Vincent Peale (1898 - 1993) first published his most famous book - "The Power of Positive Thinking." It sold about five million copies and was a New York Times bestseller for 186 consecutive weeks delivering messages like: "Never talk defeat. Use words like hope, belief, faith, victory." FDR struck the same theme in saying: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
In 1900, Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz was first published, conveying "the notion that a life of scarcity could be transformed in an instant into one of universal abundance...." In real life, the secret is by taking back our money power from the private bankers who stole it in 1913, in the middle of the night, two days before Christmas, and kept it ever since.
Today's real cause of scarcity is that "somebody is paying interest on most of the money in the world all of the time," and by so doing enslaves nearly everyone in perpetual debt bondage. Meeting America's huge debt burden requires the money supply to keep expanding, "and for that to happen, borrowers must continually go deeper into debt, merchants must continually raise their prices, and the odd men out in the bankers' game of musical chairs must continue to lose their property to the banks."
The result - inevitable wars, competition, strife, inflation, deflation, recessions, depressions, debt bondage, poverty, and despair, while at the same time bankers get fabulously richer and more powerful.
Reviewing Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt:" Part IV
By Stephen Lendman
This is the fourth in a series of articles on Ellen Brown's superb 2007 book titled "Web of Debt," now updated in a December 2008 third edition. It tells "the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free." This article focuses on America's "web of debt" entrapment.
The Debt Spider Captures America - American Workers Consigned to Debt Serfdom
America has been trapped for over two centuries, with today's debt level way exceeding developing nations. Like bankrupt people staying "afloat by making the minimum payment(s) on (their) credit card(s), the government (avoids) bankruptcy by paying just the interest on its monster debt" - now double in size since Brown's first edition and onerous enough for Controller of the Currency David Walker to warn earlier of its unaffordability by this year. If America can't service the amount, it's officially bankrupt and the economy will collapse. If it happens, IMF austerity will follow and turn America into Guatemala. Other vulnerable economies as well - permanent debt bondage and worker serfdom.
Catherine Austin Fitts was a former high-level Wall Street and government insider. She points to a "financial coup d'etat" conspiracy between the two to hollow out America, centralize power and knowledge, shift wealth to the top, destroy communities and local infrastructure, create new wealth by rebuilding them, and leave human wreckage in its wake.
The Federal Reserve and Current Crisis of our Democracy
By Time for Change | Democratic Underground
Can people really handle their responsibilities as citizens? Or must our "betters", who claim to know what is best for us, forever lead us around like children? We need to cut through their fog and condescension. We must reclaim our power as citizens.
The Federal Reserve System originated in a highly secret meeting of seven of the wealthiest men in the world, taking place at Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia in 1910. The seven men included one of our nation's most powerful U.S. Senators, Nelson Aldrich, and six bankers. An article written by one of its participants, Frank Vanderlip, 22 years after the passage of the Federal Reserve Act, documents the aura of secrecy that surrounded the creation of the Federal Reserve:
Reviewing Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt:" Part III
By Stephen Lendman
This is the third in a series of articles on Ellen Brown's superb 2007 book titled "Web of Debt," now updated in a December 2008 third edition. It tells "the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free." This article focuses on global debt entrapment.
Global Debt Enslavement - From Gold Reserves to Petrodollars
AP Sources: Obama wants Fed to be finance supercop
By Anne Flaherty | Associated Press | Google News
The White House told industry officials on Friday that it is leaning toward recommending that the Federal Reserve become the supercop for "too big to fail" companies capable of causing another financial meltdown.
According to officials who attended a private one-hour meeting between President Barack Obama's economic advisers and representatives from about a dozen banks, hedge funds and other financial groups, the administration made it clear it was not inclined to divide the job among various regulators as has been suggested by industry and some federal regulators.
"The idea of having a council of regulators was pretty much vetoed," said one participant.
Reviewing Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt:" Part II
By Stephen Lendman
This is the second of several articles on Ellen Brown's remarkable book titled "Web of Debt....the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free." It's a multi-part snapshot. Reading the entire book is strongly recommended - easily obtainable through Amazon or Brown's webofdebt.com site.
Bankers Capture the Money Machine - Fighting for the Family Farm
In the 1890s, "keeping the family homestead was a key political issue" given that foreclosures and evictions "were occurring in record numbers," much like today. The "Bankers Manifesto of 1892" spelled it out - a willful plan "to disenfranchise farmers and laborers of their homes and property," again like today except that now our very freedom and futures are at stake as sinister forces aim to steal them by turning America into Guatemala and lock it down by police state repression.
By Dave Lindorff
What a joke the Obama administration is becoming, as it keeps trying to prop up failing industry after failing industry.
First we had the president becoming First Car Salesman, offering federal guarantees for GM and Chrysler car warrantees so that potential car customers wouldn’t turn away from those two companies’ showrooms fearing that the manufacturers would go bust and leave them holding the bag. Then he started touting the cars themselves, saying they were “great products” and that people should go out and buy them.
Urgency of the American Monetary Act
by Richard C. Cook
On Thursday, April 23, 2009, Stephen Zarlenga, director of the American Monetary Institute (AMI), delivered two briefings on Capitol Hill on the American Monetary Act that AMI drafted and that may be introduced as legislation during the current congressional session. This single measure has the potential of bringing together the tens of millions of people who have realized it’s our bank-run debt-based monetary system that lies at the center of the financial rot that is destroying our republic and its values.
Attending the briefings were congressional staffers and members of the public. Zarlenga was introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who has spoken in favor of wholesale reform of the monetary system on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Kucinich is also sponsor of H.R. 7260, the “Transparency in the Creation of Wealth Act of 2008.” This act would require the Federal Reserve to resume reporting on the quantity of M3 in the economy (mega-money accessible only to large financial institutions), along with several other economic indicators it now keeps to itself, such as total credit market debt and the holding of Federal Reserve notes by foreign interests.
Reviewing Ellen Brown's "Web of Debt:" Part I
By Stephen Lendman
This is the first of several articles on Ellen Brown's superb 2007 book titled "Web of Debt," now updated in a December 2008 third edition. It tells "the shocking truth about our money system, (how it) trapped us in debt, and how we can break free." Given today's global economic crisis, it's an appropriate time to review it and urge readers to digest the entire work, easily gotten through Amazon or Brown's webofdebt.com site. Her book is a remarkable achievement - in its scope, depth, and importance.
In the forward, banker/developer Reed Simpson said:
Am I excited that "US lawmakers voted Wednesday to create a 9/11-style commission of experts to probe the causes of last year’s devastating financial meltdown and to draw lessons to prevent its recurrence"?
The 9/11 Commission has - in retrospect - expressed confidence in the whole process:
- The co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission (Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton) now admit that the Commission largely operated based upon political considerations
- The co-chairs also said that the CIA (and likely the White House) "obstructed our investigation"
- Indeed, they said that the 9/11 Commissioners knew that military officials misrepresented the facts to the Commission, and the Commission considered recommending criminal charges for such false statements, yet didn't bother to tell the American people (free subscription required)
- 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton says "I don't believe for a minute we got everything right", that the Commission was set up to fail, that people should keep asking questions about 9/11, that the 9/11 debate should continue, and that the 9/11 Commission report was only "the first draft" of history
- 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey said that "There are ample reasons to suspect that there may be some alternative to what we outlined in our version . . . We didn't have access . . . ."
Who’s Behind the Financial Meltdown? | Press Release
Center for Public Integrity Investigation Identifies Top 25 Subprime Lenders and their Wall Street Backers The top subprime lenders whose loans are largely blamed for triggering the global economic meltdown were owned or backed by giant banks now collecting billions of dollars in bailout money, according to Who’s Behind the Financial Meltdown?, a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.
“The mega-banks that funded the subprime industry were not victims of an unforeseen financial collapse, as they have sometimes portrayed themselves,” said Center Executive Director Bill Buzenberg. “These banks were deliberate enablers that bankrolled the type of lending that's now threatening the financial system.”
These are among the findings that emerged from the Center’s computer analysis of government data on nearly 7.2 million “high-interest” or subprime loans made from 2005 through 2007, a period that marks the peak and collapse of the subprime boom. The analysis also revealed The Subprime 25 — the top 25 originators of the high-interest loans, accounting for nearly $1 trillion and about 72 percent of industry — who reported subprime loans during that period.
In fact, other Wall Street insiders -- many of them big contributors to the Obama presidential campaign, and progressive in their concern for the public interest -- privately are expressing serious concerns that Geithner, Summers and their associates are leading the president and America's taxpayers down a path toward further economic disaster. This week, as Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois unsuccessfully fought for a congressional amendment he said would have helped 1.7 million Americans save their homes from foreclosure, the senator told a radio station back home that, "The banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." He could say the same of the White House.
It is inexcusable and shameful for even a Democratic House to pass a bill to allegedly combat abuses against citizens, and make that bill effective a full year later, which means all of those abuses will continue for least 12 more months. To call this a consumer protection bill is an abuse of language and a fraud against consumers and voters who do not want these abuses continuing for another year, and supported by Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress for another year. Banks given trillions of dollars to lend should lend. Those of either party who tolerate these abuses are betraying the largest financial trust ever given to public officials in the history of the nation, the world or any generation.
This week America witnessed Black Thursday for workers and families as the Senate defeated a bankruptcy bill that would have protected distressed homeowners and the House passed a bill that encourages and guarantees banks will continue abuses the bill pretends to remedy for a full year.
By Dave Lindorff
What’s wrong with this picture: Four groups invest in a company. One group puts in a 55% investment, a second puts in a 20-35% investment, a third puts in an 8% investment and a fourth goes in for 2%. The group putting in the 20-35% stake gets three seats on the company’s nine-member board of directors, which will be appointing the new company’s management team. The group investing 8% gets four board members, and the group investing 2% gets 1 seat. Finally, the group that will hold the majority stake in the company, 55% of the shares, gets…the one remaining seat on the board.
Why would anyone buy a majority stake in the company and accept only a 1/9 representation on the board, and thus virtually no say in the selection of management or in management decisions?
Since I began to write on economics and monetary policy I have argued that we should abolish our bank-centered, debt-based monetary system and replace it with a system where credit is viewed as a public utility. This would lead to money controlled by the people’s elected government and issued both for common needs, such as education, health care and infrastructure, and as a citizens’ dividend reflecting our fair share in the bounty of our producing economy.
FDR'S New Deal v. Obamanomics in Their First 100 Days
By Stephen Lendman
With good reason, progressive economists reflect positively on Roosevelt's New Deal even though:
- it failed to end the Great Depression;
- had many flaws;
- did too little for blacks, women, immigrants, small farmers, agricultural workers, and the poor;
- let blacks be persecuted, discriminated against, and in the South denied their voting rights and lynched;
- 10 weeks after Pearl Harbor, he signed an Executive Order interning loyal Japanese American citizens because of their ethnicity; smaller numbers of German and Italian Americans as well;
- despite popular discontent with US broadcasting, he signed the 1934 Communications Act establishing permanent broadcasting law that handed the public airwaves to entrenched interests and laid the foundation for today's corrupted media; he called it a "New Deal in Radio Law," indeed for the broadcasters that profited;
- his main task was to save capitalism, not remake America into a social democracy beyond what was necessary at the time;
- like all elected officials, Roosevelt was above all a politician who wanted to be re-elected; and
- it took a world war to restore prosperity.
CFR Corporate Members Get Lion's Share of Bailout Funds
By Thomas R. Eddlem | New American
The man in charge of administering the bailouts is Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who served as a staff member of the New York City-based Council on Foreign Relations before being hired in 2003 to head the New York City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed). As the vice chairman of the Fed’s Open Market Committee, Geithner is probably a poor choice to get the nation out of it’s current economic mess. He served as Alan Greenspan’s number two man at the Fed, so Geithner is as responsible as anyone for facilitating the severity of the real estate and financial bubble and its subsequent collapse. After all, the Fed was the driving force behind the asset bubble, inflating the bubble larger and larger through artificially low interest rates and an inflationary easy-money policy.
Former U.S. Senator Ernest F. (“Fritz”) Hollings on “Silent Conspiracies”
by Richard C. Cook | www.RichardCCook.com
I met Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings (D-SC) in 1985 in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. I had testified before the Rogers Commission after I leaked documents to the New York Times about NASA’s past knowledge of flaws with the O-ring joints whose failure caused Challenger to blow up. Later I told commission investigators and the press it was political pressure from the Reagan White House that likely caused NASA to overrule the engineers who tried to stop the launch.
Senator Hollings, then senior Democratic member of the Republican-controlled Senate Commerce Committee, thought the same thing. He wanted the Senate to conduct its own investigation, but the Republicans blocked it.
How Geithner forged ties to finance club: Treasury secretary's relationships with banking giants raises questions
By Jo Becker and Gretchen Morgenson | NYTimes
Timothy F. Geithner, who as president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank oversaw many of the nation’s most powerful financial institutions, stunned the group with the audacity of his answer. He proposed asking Congress to give the president broad power to guarantee all the debt in the banking system, according to two participants, including Michele Davis, then an assistant Treasury secretary.
The proposal quickly died amid protests that it was politically untenable because it could put taxpayers on the hook for trillions of dollars.
“People thought, ‘Wow, that’s kind of out there,’ ” said John C. Dugan, the comptroller of the currency, who heard about the idea afterward. Mr. Geithner says, “I don’t remember a serious discussion on that proposal then.”
But in the 10 months since then, the government has in many ways embraced his blue-sky prescription. Step by step, through an array of new programs, the Federal Reserve and Treasury have assumed an unprecedented role in the banking system, using unprecedented amounts of taxpayer money, to try to save the nation’s financiers from their own mistakes.
The centerpiece of President Barack Obama's plan to keep thousands of people from losing their homes amid the worst economic crisis in decades is headed for defeat next week in the Senate.
Allowing people to seek mortgage relief in bankruptcy court is opposed by Republicans and enough Democrats to block it. They remain worried that the legislation would unleash a torrent of loan defaults, ultimately driving up mortgage rates and introducing fresh uncertainty to an already ailing economy.
The rejection would deal a blow to the popular president pushing an ambitious agenda to stabilize the economy.
The global financial crisis could become "a human and development calamity" for many poor countries, the World Bank said, urging donor nations to speed delivery of money they have pledged and consider giving more.
Developing countries, its main constituency, face "especially serious consequences with the crisis driving more than 50 million people into extreme poverty, particularly women and children," the bank said Sunday.
Bank President Robert Zoellick said some of the poorest economies are being hit by "second and third waves of the crisis." He said no one knows how long it will last or when recovery will begin.
"There is a widespread recognition that the world faces an unprecedented economic crisis, poor people could suffer the most and that we must continue to act in real time to prevent a human catastrophe," Zoellick said.