Tag Archive: Timothy Geithner

Dec 18 2013

Q and A: Priceman

I have Joslyn Stevens's permission to repost this interview.

This week I conducted an interview with a progressive populist I follow on twitter, Priceman, whose annoying habit of using facts and common sense with a dose of in-your-face realness to prove his points tends to piss off democrats over at the “progressive” DailyKos. I feel it’s necessary to showcase often ignored voices representative of the people who speak truth to power and will continue to do so on a weekly basis.

The democratic blog DailyKos claims to be a reform blog open to all views but as we both know opposing views aren’t welcome. Are they doing their readers a disservice by promoting and defending a corporate Democratic Party that doesn’t represent working-class Americans and hasn’t for a long time?

A. Hi, Joslyn. It’s nice to talk to you. I have a lot to say on this topic. Not only are they doing their readers a disservice, they are making a laughing stock of the so called progressive blogosphere as a whole. Wanting “more and better Democrats” does not mean a whole lot when those who administer and run that site, coddle so called Democrats that are openly hostile to the programs that shaped the party’s platform in the first place, from the New Deal and Great Society. That site’s administrators play favorites there and try to hide it; President Obama and his enablers are who take precedence over everything else on Daily Kos.

I base this on the very poor job their site moderators do at that site, and the lack of self awareness that comes from denying it, which happens every time anyone looks into it. There are a number of good diarists that write there, but they do not receive equal treatment; posters whose sole mission is to protect their hero in the White House, are allowed to break the site rules and troll any posts not favorable to the Obama administration. And if anyone retaliates against them, only then does the site’s administration get involved in order to put them in their place while pretending to just enforce site rules, which are arbitrary, selective, and not clearly defined at all except in secret.

Sure, they might ban an obvious sockpuppet whose sole mission is to attack Glenn Greenwald, but that is low hanging fruit and does not hide the obvious bias at that Democratic gatekeeper site. The business model there relies on pretending that every problem in our society must be the fault of the Republicans, instead of both parties colluding together for the continuing grand austerity bargain happening now with the first step: the sequester. The White House wrote the sequester and put out there, but to mention that is blasphemous at Daily Kos like most other critiques of the President when it comes down to it. This is specifically true during election season; posters are banned for harshly criticizing the President.

I witnessed this first hand, and even I was warned in 2012 for doing so; I merely uprated a factual comment that in some ways there is little difference between Mitt Romney and President Obama. The 2012 Obama campaign went after Bain for outsourcing jobs, closing plants, and devastating US communities. Yet, now that the election is over, President Obama has appointed Jeff Zients, a former executive of Gov. Mitt Romney’s Bain & Company investment firm, as head of the National Economic Council.

To add insult to injury, on civil liberties issues, the owner of the Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, was asked how he feels about what Snowden revealed with regard to the 4th amendment being trashed by this administration continuing and expanding the Bush administration’s NSA war on terror abuses, and he said he honestly didn’t care. He said that worrying about spying was a very white privileged thing to do. However, anyone who has done even a modicum amount of research, knows that New York — pretty much the whole country, but especially New York — has changed after 9/11; it is now outfitted with a massive surveillance arsenal to more efficiently conduct racist policies like stop and frisk which does affect black people suffering from real white privilege in the real world.

This is similar to the drug war President Obama is continuing, which is also racist, since most incarcerations for drug possession are disproportionately black even though white people use the same amount or much more in many cases. Some on Daily Kos will try to deny this by saying the drug war is mostly a state issue and that you should just go yell at your local mayor and city council, and leave Obama alone. That would be fine if the Obama administration did not deploy for-profit prison lobbyists in their Justice Department like U.S Marshall, Stacia Hylton. The Prison Industrial complex lobbies all states to have access to the prisoners arrested for drug possession in whatever state they set up. This is coddled and supported at the federal level.

Not to mention all the broken promises from Eric Holder and the President about not raiding medical marijuana dispensaries. None of this is mentioned on Daily Kos when it comes to issues about race, and it’s perpetuating real racism which involves institutions like this and always has. So, this is not something Markos — and those that like him who scoff at what Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden have revealed — can ignore while claiming to care about real white privilege, real racism, and what’s going on in the real world on the federal level and at the state level aided and abetted by the drug warriors in the Obama administration at the federal level.

No, once Markos wrote a book about “Crashing the Gate” with regard to the political blogosphere he was instrumental in creating, along with Howard Dean’s campaign, in filling the void that the bought oligopoly — the mainstream media that failed and is still failing the public — left. However, now that a Democrat is in the white house, sites like Daily Kos are gatekeepers. They are not interested in crashing any gates. This is how they run the site and ultimately this is their business model.

I wrote there for a time, but I would now warn others that Daily Kos is not the site where intellectual debate is allowed on anything substantial. Only about how bad the other bought political party is. That is, instead of Democrats, with few exceptions, and Republicans working together to subvert representative Democracy. Oh, how mighty the once promising site has fallen and will continue to fall now that we know what the site’s true purpose is; shilling for the status quo as long as it has a (D). This, we all now know and can see.

There’s no reason to read anything on that site. It’s no different than what’s on MSNBC.

Feb 12 2013

The Geithner Doctrine

The former special inspector-general of the troubled asset relief program (TARP), Neil Barofsky says that it is time for a “post mortem” analysis former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s doctrine, the preservation of large banks, the largesse of Wall St. and the perversion of of the US criminal justice system. In this article posted at naked capitalism, Mr. Barofsky looks at the effect of the “Geithner Doctrine” and the weak response to the LIBOR scandal:

The recent parade of banking scandals, such as the manipulation of Libor rates by Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and other major banks, can be traced back to the lax system of regulation before the financial crisis – and the weak response once disaster struck.

Take the response of the New York Federal Reserve to Barclays’ admission in 2008 that it was submitting false Libor rates and was not alone in doing so. Mr Geithner’s response was to in effect bury the tip. He sent a memo to the Bank of England suggesting some changes to the rate-setting process and then convened a meeting of regulators where he reportedly described only the risk but not the actual manipulation of the rate. He then put the government imprimatur on the rate via bailout programmes. His inaction helped permit a global crime to continue for another year.

When it was UBS’s turn to settle its Libor charges, even though a significant amount of the illegal activity took place at the parent company level, only a Japanese subsidiary was required to take a plea. Eric Holder, US attorney-general, demonstrated his embrace of the Geithner doctrine (a phrase coined by blogger Yves Smith) in explaining the UBS decision. He said that a more aggressive stance against the parent company could have a negative “impact on the stability of the financial markets around the world”.

This week we saw the latest instalment of the saga. In fining RBS £390m, the DoJ only indicted one of the bank’s Asian subsidiaries, avoiding the more damaging result that would have stemmed from charging the parent company.

Instead of seeking deterrence and justice, the US government increasingly appears to have fully absorbed the Geithner doctrine into its charging decisions by seeking a result that has a minimal impact on the target bank but will generate the best-looking press release. Some banks today are still too big to fail – and they are still too big to jail.

There are no meaningful consequences for this criminality. The fines with a promise not to do this again are just a game to allow the banks to continue the fraudulent conduct and find better ways to cover it up. Mr. Barofsky concludes that we must ditch the “Geithner Doctrine” to end “the game of incentives gone wild, and the lack of accountability in the aftermath of the crisis has only reinforced those bad incentives.”

o reclaim our system of justice, the global threat posed by the failure of any of our largest financial institutions must be neutralised once and for all. They must be reduced in size, their safety nets must be dramatically constricted and their capital requirements enhanced far beyond the current standards. Then, and only then, can the same set of rules apply to all.

In an extended interview with The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, Mr. Barofsky discussed the double standards of the TARP program and the alien culture of Washington DC and explains why the banks will never face true justice..

Jan 29 2013

Giving It All Away

While Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner was packing up his office making way for the next puppet of the banks and Wall Street, Jack Lew, the top executives of major companies that were bailed out by the tax payers were getting their pay-offs.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Trouble Asset Relief Program — which keeps tabs on taxpayer bailouts — singled out for blame “pay czar” Patricia Geoghegan, the Treasury official tasked with reining in excessive pay increases for executives at bailed-out companies. [..]

Executives, the report contends, got pay bumps in 2012 for leading their bailed-out companies in profitable directions. But they also got raises when their units performed poorly: An executive at Ally’s residential mortgage unit saw his paycheck rise in 2012 even though Treasury knew that division of the bank was about to file for bankruptcy. The executive, Treasury said, was deemed “critical to successful restructuring.”

Another executive, at GM, saw a $50,000 pay increase not because of good performance, Geoghegan is quoted in the report as saying, but because “GM wanted to retain the employee and ‘do a little extra for him.'”

At AIG, which had by far the best remunerated executives of the three companies in 2012, the top 25 earners made nearly $108 million combined. CEO Robert Benmosche’s pay was $10.5 million. (AIG repaid its government loans in late 2012 and is no longer under Treasury oversight.)

The SIGTARP, which keeps tabs on taxpayer bailouts, is supposed to keep a lid on excessive pay for the CEO’s.  Ms. Geoghegan relinquished her authority to the companies involved to determine the size of pay increases. The result was that all but one of the 69 companies SIGTARP oversees received an annual payout of at least $1 million, and nearly a quarter received pay packages in excess of $5 million.

And the Treasury Department has sone nothing to fix the economy because under Timothy Geithner it was too busy bailing out Wall Street and the banks:

(T)he economy has already lost more than $7 trillion in output ($20,000 per person) compared with what the Congressional Budget Office projected in January of 2008. We will probably lose at least another $4 trillion before the economy gets back to anything resembling full employment. And millions of people have seen their lives turned upside down by their inability to get jobs, being thrown out of their homes, or their parents’ inability to get a job. And this is all because of the folks in Washington’s inability to manage the economy.

But the Wall Street banks are bigger and fatter than ever. As a result of the crisis, many mergers were rushed through that might have otherwise been subject to serious regulatory scrutiny. For example, J.P. Morgan was allowed to take over Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, two huge banks that both faced collapse in the crisis. Bank of America took over Merrill Lynch and Countrywide. By contrast, there can be little doubt that without the helping hand of Timothy Geithner, most or all of the Wall Street banks would have been sunk by their own recklessness.

There is one other hoary myth that needs to be put to rest as Timothy Geithner heads off to greener pastures. The claim that we made money on the bailout is one of those lines that should immediately discredit the teller. We made money on the loans in the same way that if the government issued mortgages at 1 percent interest it would make money, since the vast majority of the mortgages would be repaid.

The TARP money and other bailout loans were given to banks at way below market interest rates at a time when liquidity carried an enormous premium. Serious people know this, and the people who don’t are not worth listening to. It was a massive giveaway, as the Congressional Oversight Panel determined at the time.

Meanwhile, states are refusing to raise minimum wages to keep the many workers from falling deeper into poverty.

Jan 02 2013

It’s Not 11th Dimensional Chess. The President Wants Working People to Clean Up His Mess

Once we realize there is no fiscal cliff and the whole premise is a myth, you think about why it was created. It was created so we can mop up after the 1% which owns all three branches of government including the President. Obama didn’t add a raise in the debt ceiling to the Obama Bush tax cut deal he made in 2010 which created this political mess we are in right now.

Yet the poor and middle class are supposed to “stop whining and complaining” and just mop it up as if it’s one of the menial 60% of low wage jobs created that were part of this “recovery” where 93% of the income it went to the top 1%? I don’t think that’s fair. He needs to ask his Wall St buddies in his Treasury Department to share sacrifice. We have sacrificed enough in the name of the fantasy evil deficits from the land of Mordor causing fantasy default. Think about this when Nancy Pelosi was lying to you about this sellout ultimately helping the middle class last night.

From blatant robbery to money laundering, here are the biggest scandals of 2012 banking history.

#9. Middle-Class Wealth declines by 35 percent

On July 18, 2012, the U.S. Bureau of the Census made it official: The middle-class is getting poorer. The median family — that family exactly at the mid-point of the wealth ladder  — saw its net worth collapse. (Net worth is all assets minus all liabilities.) In 2005, the median family’s wealth was valued at $102,844 (in inflation adjusted dollars.)  By 2010, the latest Census figures showed a drop of 35 percent to $66,740.

And we’re supposed to celebrate this?  

Aug 21 2012

“Foaming the Runway for the Banks”

Disregard all cheery news you hear from the MSM that the housing crisis is over and housing prices are stable and on the rise. It’s not over. We are still bailing out the banks over the troubled homeowner.

“The evidence is overwhelming: home prices are anything but stable.”

Michael Olenick: Still Looking for a Housing Bottom

Two trends are apparent. One is that banks are delaying foreclosures, or not foreclosing at all despite long-term delinquencies. The other is that private equity firms – flush with cash thanks to Tim Geithner’s religious devotion to trickle-down economics and the resulting cascade of corporate welfare – have been bidding up and holding foreclosed houses off the market. These two factors have artificially limited supply and, combined with cheap mortgages rates, driven up prices. While we can debate whether these strategies represent the best public policy, these policies are obviously not long-term sustainable. [..]

Holding back inventory means that the houses that are put on offer sell faster and at higher prices. That creates an incentive to delay foreclosures or not foreclose at all even when a home is delinquent. Though this seems obvious, the mainstream housing finance community – aided by a freelance “housing analyst,” – uses the faster figures to somehow prove banks are not holding houses. [..]

Besides lower foreclosure activity, the government is going all out to give away houses to private equity firms. Recently Fannie Mae sold 275 properties across metro Phoenix in one sale to a mystery buyer, according to a report by Catherine Reagor of the Arizon Republic. [..]

Anybody who has been a landlord seems to quickly tire of it so, assuming there isn’t a pending planned mass immigration to Phoenix, these investors will eventually want to cash out by selling these houses. Further, they will want to minimize maintenance expenses while they are renting out these houses, so the eventual sale of these houses will increase supply and prolong the housing crisis. Geithner’s policy of shaking down Main Street to help Wall Street continues to hurt your street. [..]

Taking account of the delayed foreclosures and the beginning of mass purchases of houses would mean there should be a surge in home prices, but we’re still seeing little movement in many areas. This is especially puzzling given how inexpensive mortgage are. [..]

Of course, this assumes that people can get mortgages for these houses, though many can’t. Young people especially are hopelessly in debt thanks to out-of-control tuition hikes predictably caused by equally out-of-control student loan policies. [..]

Thanks to low lower foreclosures, real-estate speculators buying in bulk, and low interest rates there is enough direct and anecdotal evidence to suggest that we may be seeing a real-estate recovery on paper. Further, these policies are clearly calibrated to bring about a bubble, despite that bubbles are difficult to control and are not, by definition, sustainable: they always eventually pop. Let’s at least hope that when this bubble bursts the new Wall Street bulk buyers are treated with the same ruthless “free market” vigor that the prior owners of these houses were treated with after the last bubble burst. However, I doubt the mystery Asian money buyer, that Fannie sold Phoenix to, will ever be subject to something like the rocket docket.

Washington’s Blog goes down the list of evidence that “the government’s “Homeowner Relief” Programs are disguised bank bailouts … not even AIMED at helping homeowners. It’s a fascinating piece with all the links to this sham.

Former special inspector general overseeing TARP Neil Barofsky (@neilbarofsky) joined Up w/ Chris Hayes to talk about his book “Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street.” Along with panel guests Heather McGhee (@hmcghee), vice president of policy and research at the progressive think tank Demos; Josh Barro (@jbarro), who writes “The Ticker” for Bloomberg View; Michelle Goldberg (@michelleinbklyn), senior contributing writer for Newsweek/Daily Beast; and Up host Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes), Barofsky shares his thoughts on the failure of TARP and the housing crisis.

Aug 13 2012

No Good Choices For Social Safety Nets

Since Saturday’s announcement of the right wing darling Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Gov. Mitt Romney’s choice for his Vice President, the number one concern has been Ryan’s budget that would end Medicare as we know it, end federal funding of Medicaid and privatize Social Security. Those proposals are unacceptable for the majority of voters. But voting to reelect Barack Obama won’t protect those programs either. Pres. Obama and the Democrats have agreed to cuts and changes to those programs that are equally unacceptable. Mr. Obama has even lamented that he has not been given “enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security.” Even more worrisome is the person whose name has been bandied about as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s replacement, none other than the co-chair of the infamous Cat Food Commission, Erskine Bowles. Ezra Klein, Beltway insider and Washington Post political analyst, is betting on Mr. Bowles appointment if Pres. Obama is reelected:

For the Obama administration, Bowles has a number of qualifications. For one thing, Republicans adore him. Ryan has called him “my favorite Democrat.” Appointing Bowles to be Treasury Secretary would ensure a smooth confirmation, and it would be interpreted as a sign of goodwill and “seriousness” both by Republicans and by the media. Coming after a bitterly partisan election and at the outset of a hugely consequential series of negotiations, that could have real appeal to the White House.

One reservation you often hear when playing the “who will be the next Treasury Secretary” guessing game is, “but they have no market experience.” For better or worse, it’s considered crucial that the Treasury Secretary understand, and be capable of working with, markets. Bowles was an investment banker before he entered politics, and he currently serves on the board of directors for both Morgan Stanley and GE. He’s also personally beloved by Wall Street, where “Simpson-Bowles” has deep and fervent supporters, including many who have no real idea what’s in it. Appointing Bowles would be a signal to them that Washington is getting serious. [..]

There are downsides to Bowles, too. He’ll want the White House to go further than they’ve been willing to go on long-term health costs. But they’re prepared to do that once taxes are on the table. He’s also quite disliked by the left, which frequently refers to the Simpson-Bowles Commission as “the Catfood Commission.” That’s a drawback, but the Obama administration has always prized holding the center over placating the left. Indeed, Obama, who ran in 2008 as a post-partisan uniter and is unexpectedly and unhappily having to run a much more traditional and partisan campaign in 2012, might see that as a benefit. If he can press the reset button after this election, he’s going to do it.

Just what this country needs, another corporatist Wall St. buddy and former bank executive heading Treasury who, as Dean Baker points out, Mr. Bowles has been working to cut Social Security for 15 years:

While Simpson has seized the spotlight, it may prove to be the case that Erskine Bowles, his co-chairman, poses the greater threat to Social Security. The reason is simple: Bowles is the living embodiment of the rewards available to politicians who would support substantial cutbacks or privatization of the program. [..]

Bowles is an unsuccessful politician, having twice lost in runs for the Senate in North Carolina.

Yet, he is very successful financially. He pockets $335,000 a year as a director of Morgan Stanley, one of the huge Wall Street banks that was rescued by taxpayer dollars in the fall of 2008. He likely pockets a similar sum from sitting as a director of GM, another company rescued by the government.

This means that Bowles pockets close to $700,000 annually (@600 monthly Social Security checks) from attending eight to twelve meetings a year. This must look like a pretty attractive deal to current members of Congress. In other words, the message Bowles is sending members of Congress is that if you betray your constituents and vote to undermine Social Security, you will be amply rewarded even if the voters give you the boot.

Bowles has also lied to about Social Security’s solvency:

What we’ve done is make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years. As you all know, Social Security runs out of money in 2037. We’re not making it up. That’s the law.

Think Progress‘s Zaid Zilani debunked that lie:

Social Security is currently projected to be fully solvent until the year 2037. After that, it is expected to be able to pay out 75 percent of benefits until 2084, which basically equals full benefits, once inflation is accounted for. There is no threat of the program running out of money any time soon – certainly not in 2037. That does not mean that there aren’t positive and progressive changes that could possibly be made to the system.

As for Medicare and Medicaid, Dayen debunks the myth about the cost effectiveness of those programs:

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that Medicare and Medicaid spending has decelerated in recent years, and not just because of the Great Recession. The public programs have seen their cost growth slow significantly compared to private health insurance. And this is expected to continue for the coming decade.

This is so important because, as Paul van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains, the public debate has focused on transforming Medicare and Medicaid in the coming years, constraining cost in the very programs that are the most cost-efficient. If anything, the opposite should be true, and more and more of the system should be converted into public programs to increase the risk pool, allow for greater bargaining leverage on prices, and provide stability. [..]

The Obama campaign would have voters believe that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would destroy the Social Safety net but the idea of Erskine Bowles as Treasury Secretary would be just as bad for out social safety net. Mr. Bowles and his “Catfood Commission” are “grand bargains” we don’t need.

Jun 15 2012

Get Ready To Eat Cat Food

Here comes Simpson-Bowles to spare the bloated Pentagon budget and avoid letting the Bush/Obama Tax Cuts expire:

Geithner praises Simpson-Bowles framework as the way forward

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently suggested the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction framework is the way forward in terms of balancing the federal budget. [..]

“We need to take advantage of the incentive created by the sequester and these expiring tax cuts to force this town to confront and take on the things that divide us now in these long-term fiscal reforms so we can go ahead and govern,” he said. “This is a place where people spend a lot of time worrying whether Washington can work again and for Washington to say, ‘We’re going to defer,’ I don’t see how that would be helpful to confidence.” [..]

David Dayen at FDL News Desk adds his take on Geithner’s appearance before the Council on Foreign Relation:

The lame duck session has so many fiscal issues expiring at the same time that many view it as an opportunity to put together the long-sought “grand bargain” on deficit reduction. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have recently come out of their shells and resumed a high-profile media tour in an effort to get their framework into the discussion for the lame duck session. The Bowles-Simpson plan does include tax increases of hundreds of billions above the Bush tax cut rates, albeit lower than what would occur if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to completely expire.

Because of this, Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have embraced Bowles-Simpson to tease Republicans for their opposition to higher tax rates. But that also puts Democrats on the hook for embracing cuts to the social safety net, including Medicare and Social Security. And on Wednesday, Geithner said that Bowles-Simpson is “the only path to resolution politically [and] growing essentially economically, and I think that’s where it’s going to end up.” He didn’t make the caveats on Social Security or other entitlements.

David also noted that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairperson of the tax writing Senate Finance Committee, would hold hearing in the next few weeks on Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin, which combine revenue-raising tax reforms with restraint on entitlement spending. Baucus told The Hill:

“My view is everything’s on the table,” Baucus said. “That’s a psychology which I think is very important to keep people talking, keep people working.”

In his comprehensive article on Geithner’s alliance with JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Cat Food Commission co-chair former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-UT), Richard (RJ) Eskow had this to say about the coming of Simpson-Bowles:

Geithner said Simpson-Bowles was the perfect recipe: “tax reforms that raise a modest amount of revenue tied to spending savings across the government that’s still preserving some room to invest in things that matter to how we grow moving forward.” He added, “There’s no plausible way to get there economically or politically without that kind of balanced framework again that marries tax reform with broader spending reforms,”

Geithner is joining leading Democrats on the Hill like Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Nancy Pelosi in backing the plan. And take careful note of the fact that they’re all using the phrase “tax reform” instead of “tax increases.” They don’t just plan to pay for the wealth and misdeeds of the Dimon crowd with your Social Security and Medicare benefits. They also plan to raise your taxes, not theirs. The Simpson Bowles plan would actually lower the top tax rate for people like Jamie Dimon, while “tax reform” would tax away tax deductions for the middle class’s health insurance, mortgages, and other expenses.

All our elected officials are completely out of touch with what Americans want and need. Yes, indeed, something wicked this way comes.

Nov 29 2011

Obama Opposed The Federal Reserve Audit

One of the architects of the audit of the Federal Reserve was former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) who is running for his old house seat. He appeared with Keith Olbermann to discuss the Bloomberg report on the secret no strings, 0% interest $7.7 trillion had out to the banks that they also reaped another $13 billion in profits. As Rep. Grayson points out it is far worse than even the Bloomberg report.

So what does the Obama administration have to say about this? Apparently not a lot. The president is too busy raising campaign money from those who benefited most from this bailout. Obama’s minions on Twitter and in so-called “progressive” blogs have rushed in to defend him against any appearance that he sides with the banks. They ignore the history of the president’s part in the dilution of the Dodd/Frank regulations which has yet to take affect. So here is a brief refresher to keep this based in reality.

Way back at the beginning of Barack Obama’s administration and in the aftermath of the 2008 Wall St/Banking meltdown, financial reform had strong bipartisan support. The original Dodd-Frank Bill contained a provision for regular audits to the end the secrecy of the Federal Reserve. It was introduced in the House by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Rep, Ron Paul (R-TX) with strong support from on the Senate side from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). However, the amendment was opposed by not only Wall St. and the Federal Reserve, it was also opposed by the Obama administration so strenuously that Obama threatened to veto the entire Dodd/Frank bill if the audit was included. That amendment failed and a second one was crafted for the one time audit which was just as adamantly opposed by Obama and company.

Deal Killer? White House Takes Aim At Fed Audit Provision

by Brian Beutler | May 4, 2010,

Possibly today, but if not today then soon, the Senate will decide whether or not to follow the House’s lead and adopt a provision requiring government auditors to open up the books at the Federal Reserve. The measure enjoys a great deal of popularity on both the left and the right, but is so fiercely opposed by powerful interests that it could nonetheless become a stumbling block in the way of financial regulatory legislation.

Right now Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is trying to round up 60 or more votes to overcome a likely filibuster and include an “audit the Fed” provision in the Senate’s bill. There are just a few small obstacles: the White House, major financial institutions, and the Fed itself. Their resistance is fierce–but the measure is so popular that killing it will be difficult for them and that, in their eyes, threatens to put a grenade at the center of efforts to to tighten the rules on Wall Street. [..]

That’s why, according to the Wall Street Journal they’ll “fight to stop it at all costs.” The White House is hoping to cut off “audit the Fed” in the Senate, so that they’ll have a stronger hand when House and Senate negotiators meet to iron out the differences between their regulatory reform bills. If the Senate bill does not include Sanders’ amendment, then the House will be in a weak position vis-a-vis the Senate and White House and the provision could be easily stripped.

If Sanders prevails, then the White House will be all but out of options and President Obama will likely be left with the choice of vetoing the legislation, or signing it and raising the ire of very powerful people. Stay tuned.

Sanders’ amendment for a one time only audit prevailed and was conducted this past year that has revealed a massive handout to banks. We now know why the Federal Reserve and the banks didn’t want this audit. The question now is what is going to be done to prevent the Federal Reserve from dong this again. It’s fairly obvious what the president’s policy is, he sides with Wall St and the banks, the 1%.

Nov 28 2011

Surprise: The Banks, The Treasury Department And The Federal Reserve Lied

As if we didn’t know that they were all lying through their teeth on the extent of the bank bail out in late 2008, we’ve just never been sure of the price tag of all those lies. Now due to the dogged diligence of Bloomberg News, we have a better picture if what was handed out to the banks with no strings, $7.77 TRILLION. TARP, a mere $750 billion, was just 2% of that and who could forget the squawking from Congress that went on about that paltry sum.

Meantime the Federal Reserve has been fighting to keep the details of the largest bank bailout in US history buried from the public:

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse. [..]

The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he “wasn’t aware of the magnitude.” It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.

“TARP at least had some strings attached,” says Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, referring to the program’s executive-pay ceiling. “With the Fed programs, there was nothing.”

Bankers didn’t disclose the extent of their borrowing. On Nov. 26, 2008, then-Bank of America (BAC) Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth D. Lewis wrote to shareholders that he headed “one of the strongest and most stable major banks in the world.” He didn’t say that his Charlotte, North Carolina-based firm owed the central bank $86 billion that day.

As expected, Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, one of the chief architects of this hand out, fought limiting the size of banks. David Dayen at FDL points this out from the article:

   On May 4, 2010, Geithner visited (former Sen. Ted) Kaufman in his Capitol Hill office. As president of the New York Fed in 2007 and 2008, Geithner helped design and run the central bank’s lending programs. The New York Fed supervised four of the six biggest U.S. banks and, during the credit crunch, put together a daily confidential report on Wall Street’s financial condition. Geithner was copied on these reports, based on a sampling of e- mails released by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.

   At the meeting with Kaufman, Geithner argued that the issue of limiting bank size (Kaufman and Brown were working on a simple bill to cap bank size) was too complex for Congress and that people who know the markets should handle these decisions, Kaufman says. According to Kaufman, Geithner said he preferred that bank supervisors from around the world, meeting in Basel, Switzerland, make rules increasing the amount of money banks need to hold in reserve. Passing laws in the U.S. would undercut his efforts in Basel, Geithner said, according to Kaufman.

Not only have the banks and the regulators lied, they continue to lie. From Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

I get really offended by the bogus accounting, such as the “banks paid back the TARP” or “the Fed lost no money on its lending facilities,” which this story annoyingly has to repeat out of adherence to journalistic convention. This is all three card Monte. So what if the banks paid back loans when the central bank has goosed asset prices vis super low interest rates? That’s a massive tax on savers. And we have the hidden subsidy of underpriced bank rescue insurance. Ed Kane estimates that’s worth $300 billion a year for US banks; Andrew Haldane of the Bank of England has pencilled the annual cost as exceeding the market cap of big banks (and that was in 2010, when their stock prices were higher than now).

The Fed is most assuredly going to have losses. It hoovered up a ton of Treasuries and MBS to shore up asset prices at time when interest rates were already low. The central bank intends to sell them when interest rates rise, to soak up liquidity. Buying when interest rates are low and selling when rates are high guarantees losses. As an old Wall Street saying goes, it’s easy to manipulate markets, but hard to make money from it.

This would not have happened if Glass-Steagall had still been in place. If these details had been known, they would have gone a long way into reinstitution of that law which, for most of the last century, separated customer deposits from the riskier practices of investment banking.

It is long past time that both Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner resign. If they don’t do so voluntarily, President Obama should demand they do. I won’t hold my breath.

BTW, so far this morning, not a peep from the traditional MSM about this revelation.

Jul 01 2011

New Deadline For Debt Ceiling Bill: July 22

The White House is now saying that Congress must pass a bill by July 22 in order for the government not to default on its debt.

The Obama administration believes congressional leaders must agree to a deficit-reduction deal by July 22 in order to raise the government’s borrowing limit in time to avoid a default in early August, according to Democratic officials with knowledge of the negotiations.

The government needs a week or two to write and pass the necessary legislation and take the steps necessary to avoid missing a payment. “We’re down to the wire,” one official said.

Brain Beutler of Talking Points Memo reports Sen. Charles Schhumer (D-NY), in an telephone interview with reporters, said that while the Constitutional option is worth exploring, he thinks “it needs a little more exploration and study. It’s probably not right to pursue at this point and you wouldn’t want to go ahead and issue the debt and then have the courts reverse it.”

Legal scholars and other Democratic Senators have been taking a very close look at the 14th Amendment clause that forbids Congress from defaulting on US debt.

Republican economist Bruce Bartlett, who believes that the Republicans are playing with “the financial equivalent of nuclear weapons”, argues that Section 4 renders the debt ceiling unconstitutional, and obligates the President to consider the debt ceiling null and void.

If the Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and the government stops paying its obligations, the first people who should not get paid is Congress.

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