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Townhall Talk and a New Way Forward

By David Swanson

Obama's Thursday "town hall" featuring questions submitted online produced some interesting comments from our president. In response to a question from college students he explained that making student loans directly from the government, without passing them through banks and giving profits to banks from public money, makes more sense. But he claimed that giving far more money than we've ever loaned to students to banks in hopes that they will loan it to businesses is the only way to save our economy.

President Obama's claim for the need to give or loan so much money to very wealthy people is that they will loan it to small businesses. So, why not just give it or loan it to small businesses? And how many are trying to borrow money without success? Aren't more struggling to pay the debts they've got?

A New Way Forward

RALLIES EVERYWHERE ON APRIL 11th. SIGN UP!

How Does This Solution Sound?

NATIONALIZE: Experts agree on the means -- Insolvent banks that are too big to fail must incur a temporary FDIC intervention - no more blank check taxpayer handouts. (see Krugman on nationalization)

REORGANIZE: Current CEOs and board members must be removed and bonuses wiped out. The financial elite must share in the cost of what they have caused. (see Simon Johnson on reorganizing)

DECENTRALIZE: Banks must be broken up and sold back to the private market with new antitrust rules in place-- new banks, managed by new people. Any bank that's "too big to fail" means that it's too big for a free market to function. (see Mike Lux on decentralization)

RALLIES EVERYWHERE ON APRIL 11th. SIGN UP!

 

Watching the Obama Online "Town Hall"

By David Swanson

Obama's "town hall" featuring questions submitted online produced some interesting comments from our president. In response to a question from college students he explained that making student loans directly, without passing them through banks and giving profits to banks from public money, makes more sense. But he claimed that giving far more money than we've ever loaned to students to banks to loan to businesses is the only way to save our economy.

I missed the beginning and came in as Obama was saying our economy could out-compete anybody else's. I'd be happy if it just outperformed itself and stopped treating the rest of the world as competition. I started taking notes:

House Democrats Improve Obama's Budget

by: Chris Bowers

There are a few headlines trying desperately to portray some sense of major conflict between House Democrats and the Obama administration on the budget. The attempted narrative is to portray Democrats as conservatives reacting against excess spending from the Obama administration. For example, here is how the Washington Post describes it in their headline:
House Democrats Slash More Than $100B From Obama's Plan

However, this is a really flimsy, concern troll narrative. Once you read further, all indications are that the House blueprint has actually increased non-bailout public spending, yet still reduced deficit projections and the possibility for conflict over, President Obama's budget. In the extended entry, I explain how

Chris Bowers :: House Democrats Improve Obama's Budget
Three notable aspects of the House budget blueprint:

READ THE REST AT OPEN LEFT.

AIG Is Chump Change -- Let's Find Corporate America's Hidden Billions

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.

LA Gov. Jindal Urges GOP to Stand Up to Obama; Torture As Humor

La. Gov. Jindal urges GOP to stand up to Obama
By Ben Evans | Breitbart

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal again found himself carrying the Republican mantle opposite a primetime appearance from President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying Republicans must be ready to defy the president when they disagree with his policies. He also joked about his widely panned response to Obama's address to Congress last month.

"We are now in the position of being the loyal opposition," Jindal said at a Republican congressional fundraising dinner that only by coincidence fell on the same night as Obama's news conference. "The right question to ask is not if we want the president to fail or succeed, but whether we want America to succeed."

"We're all in this together"

By Cindy Sheehan

No we are not, that's the point.

Tonight, President Obama basically said that we can't demonize every investor who earns a profit, because "we are all in this together." Sorry, but I am going to have to call a big fat "bull-shit" on this one.

When Obama said "we" did he have a mouse in his pocket? Obama, and his family have a very opulent, slave-built roof over their heads. He travels on the public nickel, his children attend an exclusive Washington, DC private school that has organic food on its menu, and has health care that covers everyone in his family from head to toe and side to side and inside out.

Even though he and every member of the administration, Congress and the Supreme Court are not hurting for anything, the bastard (sorry if your parents weren't married when you were conceived) Wall Street banksters are receiving billions of dollars of government welfare and are not so good about being in "this together" with us.

Senator Sanders Blocking Key Obama Nomination

By Ken Silverstein, Harpers

I reported back in February on the case of Gary Gensler, the former Goldman Sachs employee and derivatives cheerleader who President Obama nominated to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Gensler’s nomination sailed through the Senate Agricultural Committee but Senator Bernie Sanders has placed a hold on the nomination (as has a second senator who is as yet unnamed). A statement from Sanders’s office said:

Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Welcome to Pipelineistan

Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Welcome to Pipelineistan | TomDispatch.com

At one point last week, the price of a barrel of crude oil -- which had risen as high as $147 last July and, with the global economic meltdown, hit a low of $32 in 2009 -- rebounded above $51. Prices at the local gas pump are expected to rise as well in the coming weeks. However, given a worldwide falloff in oil use, these price jumps may not hold for long. Still, cheap or not, oil and natural gas (as well as coal) are what drives global civilization, and that's clearly not going to change any time soon.

Treasury and the Fed Don't Need New Powers, They Need to Use the Power They Have

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 Administration seeks to give Treasury Secretary power to seize more companies

[When Truman tried this he was nearly impeached and the Supreme Court stopped it. -- DS]

By John Byrne, RAW STORY

Judiciary Committee Announces Plan to Fight Fraud and Protect Taxpayers

Judiciary Committee Announces Plan to Fight Fraud and Protect Taxpayers | Press Release
March 20, 2009

WASHINGTON (DC) – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr.(D-Mich.) announced that the Committee will consider a variety of initiatives to increase vigilance and accountability of taxpayer dollars by preventing and combating fraud, including misuse of taxpayer funds that have been, or will be, expended as part of the government’s economic recovery activities since the Fall of 2008. Hearings are expected to occur during the week of March 30, 2009.

Initiatives under consideration by the Committee as part of this review are expected to include:

  • Ensuring effective investigation and prosecution, including effective and severe penalties, for fraud committed in the expenditure of economic stimulus funding

Treasury Launches New Consumer Website for Responsible Homeowners Seeking Relief

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has launched a new website for consumers seeking information about the Obama Administration's Making Home Affordable loan modification and refinancing program. MakingHomeAffordable.gov offers features including interactive self-assessment tools that will empower borrowers to determine if they're eligible to participate and calculate the monthly mortgage payment reductions they could stand to realize under the Making Home Affordable program.

The Forgotten War of the United States

The Forgotten War of the United States
by Ari Eisenstat | Center for Defense Information

Rumsfeld announced that the Department of Defense “cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” CBS, in reporting this, figured that 25 percent of the yearly defense budget is completely unaccounted for.

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

"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

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

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.

Mortgage Madness

Mortgage Madness, Part 6 - The entire program is available at the website.

Obama Administration Careening Towards Disaster (and Taking the Country With It)

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 Real AIG Scandal, Continued!The transfer of $12.9 billion from AIG to Goldman looks fishier and fishier.
By Eliot Spitzer | Salon

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.

Tomgram: A Second 9/11 in Slow Motion

Tomgram: A Second 9/11 in Slow Motion
By Tom Englehardt | TomDispatch.com

A block from my apartment, on a still largely mom-and-pop, relatively low-slung stretch of Broadway, two spanking new apartment towers rose just as the good times were ending for New York. As I pass the tower on the west side of Broadway each morning, one of its massive ground-floor windows displays the same eternal message in white letters against a bright red background: "Locate yourself at the center of the fastest expanding portion of the affluent Upper West Side."

Successive windows assure any potential renter that this retail space (10,586 square feet available! 110 feet of frontage! 30 foot ceilings! Multiple configurations possible!) is conveniently located only "steps from the 96th Street subway station, servicing 11 million riders annually."

Forget the Bonuses: AIG Can't Repay Its Loans, GAO says

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.

Top Geithner Aide Fought CEO Pay Reform

Top Geithner Aide Fought CEO Pay Reform
By David Corn and Jonathan Stein | Mother Jones

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."

The Big Takeover

The Big Takeover
The global economic crisis isn't about money - it's about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution
Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

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.

Jobless Rate at 11.2% for Veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan

Jobless rate at 11.2% for veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan
By Gregg Zoroya | USA TODAY

The economic downturn is hitting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans harder than other workers — one in nine are now out of work — and may be encouraging some troops to remain in the service, according to Labor Department records and military officials.

The 11.2% jobless rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are 18 and older rose 4 percentage points in the past year. That's significantly higher than the corresponding 8.8% rate for non-veterans in the same age group, says Labor Department economist Jim Walker.

Army records show the service has hit 152% of its re-enlistment goal this year. "Obviously the economy plays a big role in people's decisions," says Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, an Army spokesman.

Which Way Forward for Anti-War Forces?

Which way forward for anti-war forces?
By Fred Goldstein | Workers World

With Washington carrying out war, occupation and intervention on expanding fronts, the anti-war movement is more necessary than ever. It is needed by the workers and oppressed people abroad who are the direct targets of the Pentagon and also by the masses of people in the U.S. who will pay for these military operations and have to carry them out.

The anti-war struggle is developing in the midst of the most severe economic crisis in generations. This creates a new situation for the movement and raises two burning questions: what should be the character of the movement and what should be the relationship of the struggle against the war to the struggle against the economic crisis?

Much Bigger Deficits Seen in Budget Office Forecast

Much Bigger Deficits Seen in Budget Office Forecast
By David Stout | NYTimes

President Obama’s budget proposals, if carried out, would produce a staggering $9.3 trillion in total deficits over the next decade, much more than the White House has predicted, the Congressional Budget Office said on Friday.

The office’s estimates of deficits in the fiscal years 2010 through 2019 “exceed those anticipated by the administration by $2.3 trillion.”

The deficits under the Obama plan would be $4.9 trillion more than the projected deficits if there were no changes in current laws and policies — what the nonpartisan budget office calls its baseline assumption.

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