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Barack Obama's chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees last year from firms that have direct financial interests before the government or are intimately involved in the White House's bank relief programs.
The White House released late Friday the personal financial disclosure forms of many high-ranking administration officials. The document provided for Summers, who serves as one of the president's closest confidants, underscores just how close some of these officials are to the industry over which they now have oversight.
Among the firms that paid Summers large amounts in speaking fees include J.P. Morgan Chase. That bank offered the former Harvard president and Treasury Secretary $67,500 for a February 1, 2008 engagement. It has received $25 billion in government bailout funds.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has called for "sweeping regulation" of the financial community, beginning a discussion of how we restructure the banking system—in and out of the shadows—as we emerge from what Robert Kuttner calls the Great Collapse. Literally trillions have already been committed in loans, guarantees, swaps, direct equity to stave off a complete financial collapse, even as the real economy declines.
But before we decide on the salvation, we need a public probe of the fall. What caused the Great Collapse? We need a grand inquest—either a special congressional committee or an independent commission like the 9/11 Commission armed with subpoena power—to expose misbegotten policies, malpractices, and mistaken ideas that allowed the wizards of Wall Street to transport us over the cliff.
...Greider thinks, "People at large, I don't care whether they're middle class or upper class or working poor or union, non-union, have to find ways to come together themselves, perhaps in very small groups at first, and talk about their own stuff. Their experiences, their ideas their convictions, their aspirations for the country, themselves, their families, and then broaden out a bit, laterally. And have more people in the discussion. They don't have to become a giant organization, but they have to convince themselves that they're citizens..."That's kind of the mystery of democracy. People get power if they believe they're entitled to power."
Too Big to Fail or Too Dumb to Survive
By John Cooper
Unfortunately, the efforts to save weak banks by forcing them to merge with larger ones is worsening the "too big to fail" problem. Government agencies and policies failed to protect and in some cases contributed to the financial crisis. It is not clear that the reforms the Administration is requesting of Congress will be affective in preventing future crises.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev urged international leaders on Tuesday to discuss the creation of a modern currency system, speaking ahead of a G20 meeting set to focus on a new financial architecture.
"The current system is not ideal," Medvedev said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
"We cannot develop in the next 10 years if we do not create a new infrastructure including new (currency) systems... We should think about creating a new currency system," he said.
Geithner’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: The Entire Global Financial System is at Risk
When the Solution to the Financial Crisis becomes the Cause
by F. William Engdahl | GlobalResearch.ca
US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has unveiled his long-awaited plan to put the US banking system back in order. In doing so, he has refused to tell the ‘dirty little secret’ of the present financial crisis. By refusing to do so, he is trying to save de facto bankrupt US banks that threaten to bring the entire global system down in a new more devastating phase of wealth destruction.
Cassano, who lives in London, made more than $300 million running the infamous Financial Products Division of AIG where he, with about a dozen others, committed AIG to insure what turned out to be more than a trillion dollars worth of junk quality loans held by banks. "He is the golden boy of the casino," said Rep. Speier. "They basically took peoples' hard earned money and threw it away, gambled it and lost everything. And he must be held accountable for the fraud, for the dereliction of his duty, and for the havoc that he's wrought on America."..."This is the other very important issue underneath the AIG scandal," said Blum. "All of these contracts were moved offshore for the express purpose of getting out from under regulation and tax evasion."..."AIG was insuring junk and it was the AIG insurance that made the junk marketable," said tax law expert Jack Blum. "American taxpayers have been put on the hook for this insurance junk."
The FBI and federal prosecutors are reportedly closing in on the AIG executive whose suspect investments cost the insurance giant hundreds of billions of dollars. The government is investigating whether or not 54-year old Brooklyn-native Joseph Cassano committed criminal fraud in virtually bankrupting the company.
Obama's Latest No Banker Left Behind Scheme
By Stephen Lendman
On Wall Street, that is. So hyped by advance fanfare, Timothy Geithner unveiled his Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) on March 23, the latest in a growing alphabet soup of handouts topping $12.5 trillion and counting - so much in so many forms, in "gov-speak" language, with so many changing and moving parts, it's hard for experts to keep up let alone the public, except to sense something is very wrong. They're being fleeced by a finance Ponzi scheme, sheer flimflam, and here's how from what we know:
- $400 billion in taking over Fannie and Freddie;
- $42 billion for the auto giants; billions more coming for their suppliers;
- approaching $200 billion for AIG with more coming on request;
- $350 billion to Citigroup in handouts and loan guarantees;
- tens of billions to other banks, including $87 billion to JP Morgan Chase for bad Lehman Brothers trades;
“Credit as a Public Utility: The Solution to the Economic Crisis”
A Video in Six Parts | Written and Produced by Richard C. Cook
Part One of Six Parts: Credit As A Public Utility: The Solution to the Economic Crisis
Early U.S. statesmen, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson worked to free the nation from control by the bankers who had been behind the establishment of the First and Second Banks of the United States. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln implemented a true democratic currency by spending Greenbacks directly into circulation without borrowing from the banks. These measures allowed the U.S. to develop for much of the 19th century largely free from bankers’ control. By the end of the century, this had changed, and the bankers were taking over.
Global investors ponder implications of US dollar collapse
By Alex Lantier | WSWS
The very fact that Barron's is imagining such a scenario indicates the power of the objective tensions building up inside world capitalism. It is considering a situation in which major US creditors such as China refuse to lend to the US government, forcing Washington to cut spending. The result would be a truly explosive social situation, as the US government told the population it no longer had money to fund social spending, after trillions of dollars had already been handed out to the banks and the super-rich.
The world bourgeoisie is beginning to consider the consequences of the huge deficit spending and money-printing operations that the Obama administration is using to fund its bailouts of Wall Street and major banks. As these policies increasingly raise questions about the value of the US dollar, commentators are in particular pondering the desirability and implications of a diminished international role for the American currency.
At his March 24 press conference, President Obama made his first public comment on recent Chinese proposals for an international currency overseen by the International Monetary Fund. Obama said: "As far as confidence in the US economy or the dollar, I would just point out that the dollar is extraordinarily strong right now. And the reason the dollar is strong right now is because investors consider the United States the strongest economy in the world, with the most stable political system in the world. So you don't have to take my word for it."
On Monday, Lawrence Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, responded to criticisms of the Obama administration’s plan to subsidize private purchases of toxic assets. “I don’t know of any economist,” he declared, “who doesn’t believe that better functioning capital markets in which assets can be traded are a good idea.”
Leave aside for a moment the question of whether a market in which buyers have to be bribed to participate can really be described as “better functioning.” Even so, Mr. Summers needs to get out more. Quite a few economists have reconsidered their favorable opinion of capital markets and asset trading in the light of the current crisis.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, the corporate state is here.
WILLIAM GREIDER: The corporate state is here. And I'd say, let's not argue over that. The fact is, if the Congress goes down the road I see them going down, they will institutionalize the corporate state in a way that will be severely damaging to any possibility of restoring democracy. And I want people to grab their pitch forks, yes, and be unruly. Get in the streets. Be as noisy and as nonviolently provocative as you can be. And stop the politicians from going down that road. And let me add a lot of politicians need that to be able to stand up. Our President needs that to be able to stand up.
For years best-selling author William Greider sounded the alarm about Washington's unholy alliance with Wall Street and the failure of the Federal Reserve and other regulators to take preventive measures to avoid disaster. Now, he offers some suggestions to the question everyone is asking: "What do we do now?"
By Dave Lindorff
George Santayana once famously said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But what about those who don’t just ignore history, but who hire and take counsel from those who committed historic follies in the past?
Back in November 1999, Congress passed legislation pushed by then Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), rescinding the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act. The measure, backed by the Clinton administration, and overwhelmingly passed by the Senate (90-8) and the House (362-57), opened the way for banks to merge with investment banks and insurance companies, and led directly to the current financial cataclysm.
AIG is chump change -- let's find corporate America's hidden billions
It's time to reform offshore banking, and see what untaxed wealth big business is hiding in overseas tax shelters.
By Joe Conason | Salon
The popular urge to claw back the bogus bonuses paid by American International Group is irresistible and fully justified, but should the Treasury someday retrieve every single bonus dollar, that total of $165 million will make no difference to anyone except a few disgruntled traders. From the jaded perspective of the financiers, the uproar over the AIG bonuses may provide a welcome distraction from far more important (and lucrative) abuses in the world's offshore tax havens.
Bail Out Working People - NOT the Banks!
Join us on May 9 in San Francisco for a
TEACH-IN & MASS MOBILIZATION PLANNING MEETING
Learn about what is happening in the labor movement and in our communities to fight for the interests of working people.
By Dave Lindorff
Wait a minute! Did I hear correctly? Did Treasury Secretary and former New York Federal Reserve Bank screw-up Tim Geithner really tell a House Financial Services Committee today that he needed “new powers” to allow the federal government to take control of non-bank financial corporations whose actions threaten the financial system or the economy and “break them up”?
The subject under discussion at the hearing was AIG, and Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, under attack for those AIG “bonus payments” to executives, were trying to talk tough about the evil insurance giant.
But aren’t the powers that Geithner is calling for exactly the powers that he and Bernanke already have in the case of the banking industry?
Yes they are.
Obama Economic Program Increases America's Bondage to Wall Street Billionaires: It’s Time for a New Monetary System
Obama Economic Program Increases America's Bondage to Wall Street Billionaires: It’s Time for a New Monetary System
by Richard C. Cook
This article previews the author’s new six-part video series scheduled for release April 2: “Credit as a Public Utility: The Solution to the Economic Crisis.”
The Obama administration is spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to persuade the banking system to restart lending. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke plans to create hundreds of billions more of new bank reserves by purchasing mortgage-related debt. With Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner working together, “the initiative will seek to entice private investors, including big hedge funds, to participate by offering billions of dollars in low-interest loans to finance the purchases. The government will share the risks if the assets fall further in price.” (Martin Crutsinger, AP) Finally, President Obama is taking over the distinction of being the biggest Keynesian in history with a fiscal year 2009 deficit of $1.75 trillion.
The cancer of debt grows by the day. According to Michael Hodges’ famed “Grandfather Economic Report”: “America has become more a debt ‘junkie’ than ever before, with total debt of $57 trillion, and the highest debt ratio in history. That's $186, 717 per man, woman and child.”
"Down the Memory Hole," Alan Greenspan Style
by Stephen Lendman
He's back and in denial in a March 11 Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined: "The Fed Didn't Cause the Housing Bubble." He lied, the way he did throughout his career and for 18.5 years as Fed chairman. How else could he have kept the job, be knighted in the UK for his "contribution to global economic stability, wisdom and skill," then afterwards be extolled by the Money Trust he enriched.
So now he's preserving his "legacy" by expunging its dark side the way Orwell described in 1984 - "down the memory hole," a convenient slot for "any document....due for destruction," politically inconvenient truths to be erased to preserve only sanitized versions for the public. It's called historical revisionism, but even some on the right aren't convinced.
David Walker: Plan B Move to Vancouver
Former Comptroller General for the United States says that he believes things can be turned around economically with a lot of work, or Plan B move to Vancouver.
Wall Street's Economic Crimes Against Humanity
By refusing to consider the consequences of their actions, those who created the financial crisis exemplify the banality of evil, writes Shoshana Zuboff
By Shoshana Zuboff | Business Week
As in war, that emotional distance made it easier to operate in one's own narrow interests, without the usual feelings of empathy that alert us to the pain of others and define us as human. The narcissistic business model provided the modern day "circumstances" that enabled individuals to ignore the poisonous consequences of their choices. This paved the way for a full-scale administrative economic massacre.
The financiers at AIG were awarded millions in bonuses because their contracts were based on the transactions they completed, not the consequences of those transactions. A 32-year-old mortgage broker told me: "I figured my job was to get the transaction done ... Whatever came after the transaction - that was on him, not me." A long list of business executives have reaped sumptuous rewards even though they fractured the world's economy, destroyed trillions of dollars in value, and disfigured millions of lives.
By Dave Lindorff
Six months after the failed Bush administration effort to "rescue" the US financial system, and after two months of failed efforts by his own new administration, at an expense to the American public of several trillion dollars and counting, the Obama administration is announcing plans to blow another $1 trillion in a massive taxpayer giveaway to investors who will be subsidized in an effort to get them to buy the so-called toxic assets on the books of the nation's biggest banks.
The problem with this plan is that its goal--getting these zombie banks to start lending again--is not going to work.
The Real AIG Scandal, Continued!The Transfer of $12.9 Billion from AIG to Goldman Looks Fishier and Fishier
The AIG scandal is getting ever-more disturbing. Goldman Sachs' public conference call explaining its trading relationship and exposure with AIG established once again that Goldman knows how to protect itself. According to Goldman, even if AIG had failed, Goldman's losses would have been minimal.
How did Goldman protect itself? Sensing AIG's weakening capital position through 2006 and 2007, Goldman demanded more collateral from AIG and covered outstanding risk with instruments from other firms.
Forget the bonuses: AIG can't repay its loans, GAO says
By Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
Lost in all the shouting over the $165 million in bonuses paid to executives of disgraced insurer American International Group was this sober message delivered to Congress on Wednesday by a government watchdog: AIG's ability repay its $170 billion in loans from taxpayers has eroded significantly.
Testifying before Congress, Orice Williams, the director of the Government Accountability Office's financial markets division, said that AIG has had only limited success in restructuring itself, despite more than $170 billion in federal aid in four separate bailouts since last September.
As a Goldman Sachs lobbyist, Mark Patterson once worked against a bill to curb executive compensation. The legislation's sponsor: Barack Obama.
On Wednesday afternoon, as President Barack Obama was leaving the White House for a town hall meeting in California, he spoke for 15 minutes to reporters about the AIG controversy. Responding to the rising rage over the $165 million or so in bonuses paid to executives at the bailed-out insurance firm, Obama noted that he was quickly developing policies to prevent future AIG-like catastrophes. And he slammed Wall Street's culture of "excess greed, excess compensation, excess risk taking." To demonstrate that he's committed to battling such greed, the president cited his work in the Senate to rein in executive compensation. Noting that he and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had each introduced legislation on this front in 2007, Obama declared that "there were some people who attacked us, saying government has no business doing that."
It's over — we're officially, royally fucked. no empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.
“By a technicality, the biggest giveaway on Wall Street will evade this bill,” said Michael Garland, a spokesman with Change to Win, a federation of seven unions.
Merrill Lynch’s $3.6 billion bonus pool has been among the most controversial payouts on Wall Street. But most of those bonuses, which included some 700 awards of over $1 million, would not be affected by a new bonus tax being considered in Congress.
The tax, which passed in the House on Thursday, would affect only bonuses paid during 2009. Typically, Merrill’s bonuses are paid in January, along with the rest of Wall Street’s. But the investment bank pushed $2.5 billion of the bonuses out the door in December in advance of its merger with Bank of America.
A.I.G. Sues U.S. for Return of $306 Million in Tax Payments
By Lynnley Browning | NY Times
While the American International Group comes under fire from Congress over executive bonuses, it is quietly fighting the federal government for the return of $306 million in tax payments, some related to deals that were conducted through offshore tax havens.
A.I.G. sued the government last month in a bid to force it to return the payments, which stemmed in large part from its use of aggressive tax deals, some involving entities controlled by the company’s financial products unit in the Cayman Islands, Ireland, the Dutch Antilles and other offshore havens.
By Dave Lindorff
The actions of Obama's Chief Financial Adviser Larry Summers and his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in permitting the payment of $165 million in bonuses to AIG executives (Summers, according to the Wall Street Journal, actually pressed Sen. Chris Dodd, D-CT, to secretly remove a bar to the payment of such bonuses from the bailout bill) and storm of public outrage that has followed public disclosure of those payments, provides President Obama, whose administration is stumbling badly on many fronts, to turn things around and avoid political disaster.
He should promptly demand Geithner's and Summers' resignations, and should also fire the CEO of AIG, Edward Liddy (as 80% owner of AIG, the US has the power to do that anytime). It would also be a good idea at the same time to fire the CEOs of all the leading banks that are at this point surviving on government bailouts.
In his opening statement today, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said it was “shameful” and “a disgrace” that a number of private corporations who received a portion of the billions in capital infusion through the controversial Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) owe back taxes. Two of the firms owe over $100 million each. The Oversight Subcommittee researched 23 of the top TARP recipients out of the 470 companies that received federal support. Chairman Lewis suggested a complete review of the tax status of these companies might be very revealing.