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Conservative Group Sues for TARP Details

Conservative group sues for TARP details
By Walter Alarkon | The Hill

A conservative legal group is suing the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to reveal exactly how the first $350 billion of the financial services bailout was spent.

Larry Klayman and his organization, Freedom Watch, said they're concerned money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was given to investment firms on the basis of the banks' political influence. The group noted that that jobs have been lost and that stock prices haven't recovered since the bailout. But Freedom Watch hasn't provided specific evidence of wrongdoing.

Whatever Happened to Antitrust?

By Dave Lindorff

Now here’s a word you’re not hearing in America these days: anti-trust.

The country is being dragged down by monstrous businesses, all of which, we’re told, are just “too big to fail.” As a consequence of this, the nation’s taxpayers, and their progeny born and yet unborn, are having trillions of dollars sucked away to prop up these giant rotting corporate corpses.

Zombie banks, zombie automakers, zombie insurance companies, all bigger than nation states, and all on life-support.

There is a simple answer to this problem. Bust them up.

Michael Moore Plans Film About ‘Biggest Swindle in American History’

Michael Moore plans film about ‘biggest swindle in American history’
By Carol Eisenberg | Muckety

Filmmaker Michael Moore is looking for “a few brave people who work on Wall Street.”

The muckraking director of films about the auto and health-care industries and America’s love of guns is now working on a movie about what he calls “the biggest swindle in American history.”

But he says in his letter that he needs a couple of informants to help guide him.

“Your identity will be protected and you will decide to what extent you wish to participate in telling the greatest crime story ever told,” Moore says in an open letter posted last week on his website.

If the CEOs of Bank of America, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch think that members of Congress have been tough on them, they have no idea what awaits.

The 54-year-old filmmaker born in Flint, MI , the son of an auto assembly-line worker, made his reputation as a populist bomb thrower in Roger & Me, which documents his unsuccessful efforts to confront then-General Motors CEO Roger Smith about his management of what was then the world’s largest automaker.

America's Controlled Economic Implosion

America's Controlled Economic Implosion

World of Trouble

World of Trouble

13:14 mins.

Toxic Plans for Toxic Assets

Toxic Plans for Toxic Assets
by Stephen Lendman

Exit Paulson, enter Geithner with the latest "no banker left behind plan" - aka whatever Wall Street wants, Wall Street gets. Yet, the reception was underwhelming. The Dow plummeted 382 points while investors took shelter in bonds and gold. AP reported that "the new bank rescue plan landed with a thud on Wall Street" as investors worried that no end to the crisis is in sight. Editorial and op-ed commentaries were near unanimously negative and some especially critical.

At a February 9 congressional briefing, lawmakers greeted Geithner with laughter and sarcasm, but most of it is just politics. Bailout opponent Brad Sherman (D, California) asked for details and a dollar amount, but instead got generalities about what he announced the next day - a plan to:

Wall Street’s $18.4 Billion Bonus

Wall Street’s $18.4 Billion Bonus
by Michael Shnayerson | Vanity Fair

After getting $125 billion in taxpayer bailouts, the top officers at Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and three other banks agreed to forgo their 2008 bonuses. Now they’re awarding billions to their troops. Can government “claw back” that money?

On December 8, The Wall Street Journal reported that John Thain, the 53-year-old chairman and C.E.O. of Merrill Lynch, had let it be known he wanted a $10 million bonus.

We Are All Socialists Now - With a Socialist's Response

We Are All Socialists Now - With a Socialist's Response
By Jon Meacham and Evan Thomas | Newsweek | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

The interview was nearly over. on the Fox News Channel last Wednesday evening, Sean Hannity was coming to the end of a segment with Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, the chair of the House Republican Conference and a vociferous foe of President Obama's nearly $1 trillion stimulus bill. How, Pence had asked rhetorically, was $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts going to put people back to work in Indiana? How would $20 million for "fish passage barriers" (a provision to pay for the removal of barriers in rivers and streams so that fish could migrate freely) help create jobs? Hannity could not have agreed more. "It is … the European Socialist Act of 2009," the host said, signing off. "We're counting on you to stop it. Thank you, congressman."

There it was, just before the commercial: the S word, a favorite among conservatives since John McCain began using it during the presidential campaign. (Remember Joe the Plumber? Sadly, so do we.) But it seems strangely beside the point. The U.S. government has already—under a conservative Republican administration—effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. That seems a stronger sign of socialism than $50 million for art. Whether we want to admit it or not—and many, especially Congressman Pence and Hannity, do not—the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state.

Shock Absorbers: Progressives Stunned by Obama Non-Surprises

Shock Absorbers: Progressives Stunned by Obama Non-Surprises
By Chris Floyd | Empire Burlesque

There is certainly a great deal of slack-jawed shock going around these days, especially in progressive circles, where pundits, commentators, analysts and kibitzers continually find themselves reeling from yet another "inexplicable" move by the Obama Administration to uphold the core principles of their predecessors: enriching the rich, extending the empire, and enhancing the authoritarian power of a thoroughly militarized state.

Investigation Looks Into Political Pressure in Bailout Distribution

Investigation looks into political pressure in bailout distribution
A special inspector at the Treasury Department is auditing the Troubled Asset Relief Program after reports that members of Congress exerted pressure and that banks actively lobbied for the money.
By Ralph Vartabedian | LATimes

Amid growing public consternation with the federal banking bailout, the Treasury Department's special inspector general has opened an examination of political influence in handing out some of the $350 billion in federal bank bailout funds, The Times has learned.

The audit, which has just begun, is broad in scope but will focus on lobbying activities by financial institutions and what the special inspector general, Neil Barofsky, has called "outside influences."

A Short History of US Government Handouts

A Short History of US Government Handouts
by Stephen Lendman

Global economies are withering while Washington conceives "Financial Recovery Plan(s) from Hell," according to economist Michael Hudson in his latest February 11 article. Bankers demand more trillions, "or (they'll) plunge the economy into financial crisis." What they want they'll get, and here's where things now stand.

On February 10, Bloomberg.com reported that Treasury Secretary Geithner "pledged government financing for as much as $2 trillion....to spur new lending and address banks' toxic assets, seeking to end the credit crunch hobbling the economy." Hudson calls it "Stage One of a two-stage plan," so far unannounced, to transfer trillions more to corrupt bankers who caused the problem in the first place, yet taxpayers will get little more back than the bill.

Fraud 'Directly Related' to Financial Crisis Probed

Fraud 'Directly Related' to Financial Crisis Probed
FBI Agents Could be Reassigned from National Security Due to Booming Caseload
By Jason Ryan | ABCNews

TARP IG...Barofsky currently only has around four FBI and IRS agents to oversee how $700 billion is tracked.

The FBI has opened investigations into more than 500 cases of alleged corporate fraud, including 38 that involve major firms and are "directly related" to the national economic crisis, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole told Congress today.

The surge in white-collar investigations is putting such a strain on the FBI that Pistole said the bureau is considering reassigning agents from national security, which has been the bureau's priority since the 9/11 attacks.

"The FBI has more than 530 open corporate fraud investigations, including 38 corporate fraud and financial institution matters directly related to the current financial crisis," Pistole told the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

The 38 companies, he said, "are significantly large companies, businesses everyone knows about but I cannot comment publicly."

Unapologetic CEOs: What Did the Banks Do With Your Cash?

Unapologetic CEOs: What Did the Banks Do With Your Cash?
Bank CEOs, With $125 Billion in Taxpayer Money in Hand, Testify and Defend Before Congress
By Matthew Jaffe and Scott Mayerowitz | ABCNews

The heads of eight major banks that received $125 billion in taxpayer bailout funds were largely unapologetic for their role in helping to create the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression as they testified before Congress this morning.

The CEOs said they are trying to lend out more money and pledged to return to profit, be more transparent and repay taxpayers as soon as possible.

Yet they warned that there was still much work to do and that it would take time for the financial system to right itself.

Obama and the Wrong Road

Obama and the Wrong Road
By Carlos Alberto Montaner | Independent Institute

For four decades, the world experimented with Keynes’ theories and the result was oversized States, punished by inflation, in which waste and a lack of efficiency grew apace with excessive public spending and bureaucracy, until the world began to return to civil society the vigor and role stolen by the governments.

Kucinich: "Save Homes"

Kucinich: "Save Homes" FOX 02-10-09

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement on the ongoing foreclosure crisis:

“According to today’s Wall Street Journal, Moody’s economy.com claims that nearly five million families could lose their homes to foreclosure between 2009 and 2011. Now is the time for our government to take a controlling interest in mortgage-backed securities and then direct loan modification, lowering principle and interest rates, extending terms of payments and keeping people in their homes.

“Banks are not lending money. They are hoarding money, because they fear their own balance sheets understate their losses. Instead of giving the banks more of taxpayers’ money in the hopes that banks will loan the money to keep people in their homes, the government must take charge to save the homes of so many American families. Keep people in their homes, the banks will get their money as well.

“Its time to stand up for the dream of American home ownership by saving the homes that are in jeopardy.”

Tomgram: Steve Fraser, Locked into the Bailout State

Tomgram: Steve Fraser, Locked into the Bailout State | TomDispatch.com

Sometimes it's the small gesture that defines the end of an age. Richard Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers, the single financial firm the Bush administration allowed to collapse into bankruptcy in what may someday be thought of as the slow-motion Crash of '09, made one of those gestures recently. Just to be clear, we're talking about a man who, between 1993 and 2007, took home a tidy $466 million in pay. (That's no misprint, though it's a pay level that it would take factories of workers cumulative lifetimes to reach.) Then, in 2008, the year his firm would collapse, Fuld was awarded another $22 million in what was called "retirement pay."

But that's the big picture. Here's the small one that catches our shape-shifting moment perfectly. Fuld was recently outed for "selling" his wife their jointly held $14 million, 3.3 acre Florida beach-front mansion -- one of five houses the two of them owned, including their 8-bedroom main domicile in Greenwich, Connecticut -- and the lovely touch is the selling price: $100. That's right, one hundred bucks "in a possible attempt," writes the British Times, "to move assets beyond the reach of infuriated investors of the collapsed bank." Smooth move, Dick! Just petty and sleazy enough for a $488 million man.

Tracking the Stimulus from Bill to Building

ShovelWatch is a joint project of the non-profit investigative outfit ProPublica, the morning news program The Takeaway and WNYC, New York’s flagship public radio station.

With investigative reporting, interactive features, and (not least) help from you, ShovelWatch.org will be tracking the stimulus bill dollars as they travel from Congress to your neighborhood. With your help, ShovelWatch.org will make sure that one of the biggest, fastest appropriations ever has a big, fast army to track whether it is well spent.

How the Wall Street Bailout Plan Works

Once upon a time a man appeared in a village and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.

The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.

The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He next announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.

Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it!

Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) Scolds SEC Officials at Hearing

Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) Scolds SEC Officials at Hearing

5:05 mins.

The Value of ‘Other People’s Money’

The Value of ‘Other People’s Money’
By Melvin I. Urofsky | NYTimes

Some things never change. When President Obama spoke last week of “shameful” bonuses for bankers and the financial community’s “irresponsibility,” he echoed charges leveled nearly a century ago by Louis D. Brandeis.

Brandeis, a commercial lawyer, leading reformer and future Supreme Court justice, described a dangerous combination of avarice, lack of accountability and poor oversight in “Other People’s Money, and How the Bankers Use It,” one of the best-known exposés of the Progressive era.

General Motors to Invest $1 Billion in Brazil Operations -- Money to Come from U.S. Rescue Program

General Motors to Invest $1 Billion in Brazil Operations -- Money to Come from U.S. Rescue Program
By Russ Dallen | Latin American Herald Tribune

SAO PAULO -- General Motors plans to invest $1 billion in Brazil to avoid the kind of problems the U.S. automaker is facing in its home market, said the beleaguered car maker.

According to the president of GM Brazil-Mercosur, Jaime Ardila, the funding will come from the package of financial aid that the manufacturer will receive from the U.S. government and will be used to "complete the renovation of the line of products up to 2012."

"It wouldn't be logical to withdraw the investment from where we're growing, and our goal is to protect investments in emerging markets," he said in a statement published by the business daily Gazeta Mercantil.

Rachel Maddow Interviews Paul Krugman and Elizabeth Warren

Rachel Maddow Interviews Paul Krugman and Elizabeth Warren

7:29 mins.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich Explains Our Current Economic Situation

Rep. Dennis Kucinich Explains Our Current Economic Situation

1:00:02 mins.

Courtesy of CSpanJunkie.org

TARP Shortchanged Taxpayers by $78 Billion, Watchdog Panel Says

TARP Shortchanged Taxpayers by $78 Billion, Watchdog Panel Says
By Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry | Bloomberg

U.S. taxpayers are being shortchanged by about $78 billion through the Treasury Department’s bank bailout, the panel overseeing the program said.

The Treasury, when it was headed by Secretary Henry Paulson, received bank assets worth about $176 billion in exchange for capital purchases of $254 billion under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Congressional Oversight Panel said in a report today.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Calls for Criminal Investigation into Bailout Crisis

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Calls for Criminal Investigation into Bailout Crisis

7:47 mins. - Senator Sanders starts at 3:00 mins.

Kucinich: We Should Be Going From Golden Parachutes To Golden Handcuffs!

Kucinich: We Should Be Going From Golden Parachutes To Golden Handcuffs!
In this video, Rep. Kucinich calls the bailouts what they are: frauds on the American taxpayers.

7:27 mins.

Follow the Money: Are Taxpayers on the Hook for Hundreds of Billions of Dollars for a Credit Crisis that Was Overblown?

(NOTE: This article appears in the current issue of the magazine Treasury & Risk)

By Dave Lindorff

Key members of Congress were stunned to hear Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson say on Sept. 18 in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill that the country was “days away” from a complete financial meltdown—one that could lead to Depression-like runs on banks, widespread violence and ultimately even to a possible declaration of martial law. It was a vision of Armageddon, but, of course, 10 days later, the House rejected a Wall Street bailout package sent over by Paulson, only to pass one in a more limited form—the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act—a week later that gave Paulson less power and only half the money he wanted.

Report: Over 8 in 10 Corporations Have Tax Havens

Report: Over 8 in 10 corporations have tax havens

Eighty-three of the nation's 100 largest corporations, including Citigroup, Bank of America and News Corp., had subsidiaries in offshore tax havens in 2007, and some of the companies received federal bailout funding, a government watchdog said Friday.

The Government Accountability Office released a report that said Bank of America Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley all had more than 100 units in countries that maintain low or no taxes. The three financial institutions were included in the $700 billion financial bailout approved by Congress.

Insurance giant American International Group Inc., which has received about $150 billion in bailout money, had 18 subsidiaries. JPMorgan Chase & Co. had 50 units and Wells Fargo & Co. had 18; both financial institutions received government bailout money.

Banks in Need of Even More Bailout Money

Banks in Need of Even More Bailout Money
By Edmund L. Andrews and Eric Dash | NYTimes.com

Even before word came on Tuesday that Citigroup might split into pieces to shore up its finances, an unpleasant message was moving through Congress and President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team: the banks need more taxpayer money.

In all likelihood, a lot more money.

Mr. Obama seems to know it; a week before his swearing-in, he is lobbying Congress to release the other half of the financial industry bailout fund. Democratic leaders in Congress seem to know it, too; they are urging their rank and file to act quickly to release the rescue money. And Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, certainly knows it.

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