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By Danny Schechter, AlterNet
At a time when we need hard-hitting investigations into our financial catastrophe, we are getting superficial reporting -- even on PBS.
A recent column on the legacy of disaster left by the Bush Administration brings to mind some of the history behind that legacy, for the truth is, Bush didn’t sink the country on his own. His stealth attacks on both the economy and the bill of rights were prepared by previous administrations, in particular the two terms of the Reagan Administration. This is made clear by several things I’ve read recently, in particular, Thom Hartmann’s 2006 book, Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class, and Katherine Austin Fitts’ stunning account of her time as a mortgage banker and later a high official in HUD, “Dillon Read and the Aristocracy of Profits.” Both shed important light on the staggering economic crisis the United States now faces.
The Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now has launched a campaign encouraging people facing eviction to summon volunteers to their homes to resist orders to leave.
By Jessica Garrison, Los Angeles Times
A national community organizing group Thursday announced a campaign of civil disobedience designed to help families resist eviction and remain in their homes after foreclosure.
Activists with ACORN, the Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now, said they would encourage people facing eviction to use text messaging and cellphones to quickly summon volunteers to their homes. The entire group would resist orders to leave, forcing sheriff's deputies to arrest large numbers of people to complete the eviction -- and drawing attention to the evictees' plight in the process.
The HomeStaying campaign is being waged in Los Angeles and more than 20 other cities, including Oakland, Houston and New York, said Charles Jackson, an ACORN spokesman.
Same Old Smoke and Mirrors
By John Perry
Thirty states have struck such deals with banks that include Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., JP Morgan Chase and US Bancorp...With the national unemployment rate now at 7.6 percent, the market for bank-issued unemployment cards is booming. In 2003, states paid only $4 million of unemployment insurance through debit cards. By 2007, it had ballooned to $2.8 billion, and by 2010 it will likely rise to $10.5 billion, according to a study...
First, Arthur Santa-Maria called Bank of America to ask how to check the balance of his new unemployment benefits debit card. The bank charged him 50 cents.
He chose not to complain. That would have cost another 50 cents.
Washington D.C. (February 19, 2009) -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and two other Members of Congress today sent a letter to the CEO of General Motors, Mr. Richard Wagoner, Jr., to propose a different kind of auto industry rescue plan that eliminates the competitive disadvantage of inflated health care costs.
As health care costs continue to spiral out of control, the brunt is borne in large part by employers that provide health care. General Motors and other U.S. automakers have significantly higher health care costs than their international competitors -- as much as $1400 per car. In the letter, Members of Congress point out that the adoption of H.R. 676, the United States National Health Care Act, would level the playing field and stimulate the economy.
UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, will pay $780 million and disclose the names of some secret account holders to avoid U.S. prosecution on a charge that it helped thousands of wealthy Americans evade taxes.
The Justice Department accused UBS of conspiring to defraud the U.S. by helping 17,000 Americans hide accounts from the Internal Revenue Service. The U.S. will drop the charge in 18 months if the bank reforms its practices, helps prosecutors and makes payments. UBS will immediately turn over names of about 250 clients, according to people familiar with the matter.
By Matthew Cardinale, North American Correspondent, Inter-Press Service; News Editor, Atlanta Progressive News
MIAMI, Florida, Feb 18 (IPS) - With foreclosures skyrocketing and U.S. families sinking deeper into poverty, a number of organisations are turning to a new strategy to end homelessness: moving families into vacant, foreclosed houses that are currently owned by banks or the government.
About 15 percent of the housing units in the United States in the fourth quarter 2008 were vacant, representing 19 million units, according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
One advocacy group in Miami, Florida, Take Back the Land, has already moved seven families into foreclosed properties.
So far, city officials in Miami have declined to get involved, telling local newspapers that it is up to the property's owners - usually, the banks - to initiate any actions.
By President Barack Obama
I'm here today to talk about a crisis unlike any we've ever known - but one that you know very well here in Mesa, and throughout the Valley. In Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs, the American Dream is being tested by a home mortgage crisis that not only threatens the stability of our economy but also the stability of families and neighborhoods. It is a crisis that strikes at the heart of the middle class: the homes in which we invest our savings, build our lives, raise our families, and plant roots in our communities.
So many Americans have shared with me their personal experiences of this crisis. Many have written letters or emails or shared their stories with me at rallies and along rope lines. Their hardship and heartbreak are a reminder that while this crisis is vast, it begins just one house - and one family - at a time.
I Want Some TARP!
In the fall of 2001 I attended a private investment conference in London to give a paper, The Myth of the Rule of Law or How the Money Works: The Destruction of Hamilton Securities Group.
The presentation documented my experience with a Washington-Wall Street partnership that had:
- Engineered a fraudulent housing and debt bubble;
- Illegally shifted vast amounts of capital out of the U.S.;
- Used “privitization” as a form of piracy - a pretext to move government assets to private investors at below-market prices and then shift private liabilities back to government at no cost to the private liability holder.
UBS Said to Pay $780 Million to Settle U.S. Tax Investigation
By Carlyn Kolker and David Scheer | Bloomberg
UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, will pay $780 million to settle U.S. investigations related to whether clients at the Zurich-based bank avoided taxes, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
By Dave Lindorff
Whatever the truth is about where this economy is heading, one thing is clear: employers are taking every opportunity to slash employment and, if they are unionized, to hammer unions for pay cuts, even when there is no justification for these actions.
Take Safeway Inc., a large national supermarket chain. The company, which had $44 billion in sales in 2007, and which, based upon third quarter figures for 2008 was well on the way to show record sales for 2008, appears to be using the economic downturn as a justification for laying off employees and making remaining employees work harder.
'King Size Combo:' New Report Reveals Broad Toll on Taxpayers by Bailed-Out Bank Goldman Sachs and Its Holdings in Burger King
'King Size Combo:' New Report Reveals Broad Toll on Taxpayers by Bailed-Out Bank Goldman Sachs and Its Holdings in Burger King
Goldman paid nearly double the average bonus on Wall St; Burger King costs taxpayers estimated $273 million a year
As Congress and the Obama administration look to hold major banks that have received billions in federal bailout funds better accountable for their corporate practices, a report released today by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on Goldman Sachs and its holdings in Burger King finds that the true total of taxpayer subsidies some of the banks are enjoying extends well beyond the monies they've taken through the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).
The report finds that one of Goldman Sachs' major investments, Burger King, costs taxpayers more than a quarter billion dollars a year as Burger King employees are forced to rely on public health and income support programs as a result of the lack of affordable employer health coverage and sub-poverty wage levels at Burger King.
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.
It's the Health Care, Stupid!
The enormous budget deficits projected for future years have the starring role in the documentary IOUSA (see CEPR's analysis of the film). However, the simple fact that the film conceals is that these scary deficits are driven almost entirely by projections of exploding private sector health care costs.
The government pays for approximately half of the country's private sector health care through programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Therefore, if the projections of exploding private sector health care costs prove accurate, then the government will face a serious deficit problem. However, if health care costs can be contained, then the budget problems are easily manageable.
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.
It turns out that you don't want to be a former city dweller in rural parts of southernmost Australia, a stalk of wheat in China or Iraq, a soybean in Argentina, an almond or grape in northern California, a cow in Texas, or almost anything in parts of east Africa right now. Let me explain.
Dean Baker has the latest news of belief you can hope in.
U.S. Intel Chief's Shocking Warning: Wall Street's Disaster Has Spawned Our Greatest Terrorist Threat
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
We have a remarkable ability to create our own monsters. A few decades of meddling in the Middle East with our Israeli doppelgnger and we get Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida, the Iraqi resistance movement and a resurgent Taliban. Now we trash the world economy and destroy the ecosystem and sit back to watch our handiwork. Hints of our brave new world seeped out Thursday when Washington's new director of national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He warned that the deepening economic crisis posed perhaps our gravest threat to stability and national security. It could trigger, he said, a return to the "violent extremism" of the 1920s and 1930s.
America's Controlled Economic Implosion
Unemployment’s global reach
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:
HEALTH INSURANCE: PRIVATE ENTERPRISE VS. GOVERNMENT?
Private Enterprise: 48%
Government - All Problems: 28%
Government - Emergencies: 12%
Don't know: 12%
Private Enterprise: 32% (-16%)
Government - All Problems: 49% (+21%)
Government - Emergencies: 10% (-2%)
Don't know: 9% (-3%)
What Is Single Payer Health Insurance?
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Rahm's Brother, Tapped for White House Health Care Policy Advisor Spot
By Lynn Sweet, The Chicago Sun-Times
Washington - While the Obama White House is searching for a replacement for health czar Tom Daschle, policy work on health care reform - a priority for the administration - Is ongoing with one key advisor especially well connected.
The brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a noted bioethicist, is advising the Obama administration on health care reform.
Dr. Emanuel is the Chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health and a breast oncologist.
Dr. Emanuel is a special advisor to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget for health policy. He told me he is "working on (the) health care reform effort." He is "detailed" to the OMB spot and is still officially an employee of the NIH.
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.
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.