Wednesday, September 24, 2008

News That Matters - September 24, 2008 - The Bailout Edition

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime
We've been struggling in an unrelenting climb
We were hardly up and walking before money started talking
And it's sad that failure is an awful crime
Well it's been that way for a millennium or two
But now it seems that there's a different point of view
If you're a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic
Down in congress there's a safety net for you
- Tom Paxton - "I am Changing My Name to Chrysler" (© 1980 Accabonac Music)

Good Wednesday Morning,

Do you support a bailout for Wall Street?
Yes: I support
the bailout
No: I do not support the bailout
Not Sure
free polls

As promised in yesterday's column, today's is about rescuing the wealthy from themselves.

The current financial mess we're in should call into question whether a system where financial institutions write the rules, is the very best way to go. Perhaps it's time we joined other wealthy, comfortable nations by instituting logical controls on the amount of wealth that can be accumulated in the hands of Wall Street and its shareholders and more importantly, the way they do business.

Other nations manage to raise vast capital while providing a deep, rich safety net for its citizens. We can do the same but first we have to tear down the system that was built to redistribute wealth from the working classes to the ruling classes and this is a very good time to do that.

Think: How fair is a financial system going to be when the system itself writes the rules? If you hold any credit card debt at all and missed - even by a day - a single payment, you'll know what I'm talking about.

I know, I know, you don't like the words and you've been told since birth that you, too, can join the ruling elite. But the truth is that you cannot - and you know it. When you begin to see the US financial industry in an existential way you will be in a position to begin a process that will result in economic security for all Americans.

In the meantime, ask this: "What's in it for me?" If you're going to be shelling out a trillion dollars to those who gamble with our national financial security, you have a right to expect something in return... like prison for those responsible and a Congress strong enough to put  the welfare of its citizens first. Both, however, are unlikely without determined and sustained action on your part.

There are a number of anti-bailout demonstrations going on across the nation this week. If you'd like to take direct action and participate in one, the nearest to our area is tomorrow (Thursday) in front of John Hall's office at the County Courthouse at 5PM. Bring signs and write Judy Allen for more information. If you happen to be in White Plains this evening, you can demo in front of Nita Lowey's office from 5PM onwards. At the very least, write a letter to Congress.

Feel free to forward your copy of News That Matters onto others.
They'll be happy you did.

And now, the News:

  1. Found on the Internet:
  2. Money and Votes Aligned in Congress's Last Debate Over Bank Regulation
  3. F.B.I. Looks Into 4 Firms at Center of the Economic Turmoil
  4. Paulson Bailout Plan a Historic Swindle
  5. In Bailout Furor, Wall Street Pay Becomes a Target
  6. $1 Trillion for Wall Street - $0 for Health Care
  7. Cash for Trash
  8. Retirees Filling the Front Line in Market Fears
  9. Give Main Street a Fair Shake
  10. This Modern World - Tom Tomorrow
  11. Foreign Banks Hope Bailout Will Be Global
  12. From: Bridge Loan to Nowhere
  13. Demand that the Bailout Legislation Be Rejected
  14. An Open Letter from Cliff Narby

Found on the Internet:

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a
transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had
crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion
dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable
to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as
Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the
leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This
transaction is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as
quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our
close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer
advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act
as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers
and those of your children and grandchildren to
so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive
that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that
will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

Read Original

Money and Votes Aligned in Congress's
Last Debate Over Bank Regulation

Published by Massie Ritsch on September 23, 2008

 The last time Congress seriously debated how to regulate the financial industry, the result was legislation that allowed the nation's largest banks to get even larger and take risks that had been prohibited since the Great Depression. A look back at that debate, which was over the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act, reveals that campaign contributions may have influenced the votes of politicians who, a decade later, are now grappling with the implosion of the giant banks they helped to foster.

Looking back at the vote on the 1999 act, and the campaign contributions that led up to it, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has found that those members of Congress who supported lifting Depression-era restrictions on commercial banks, investment banks and insurance companies received more than twice as much money from those interests than did those lawmakers who opposed the measure.

Read More

F.B.I. Looks Into 4 Firms at Center of the Economic Turmoil


WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation, under pressure to look at possible criminal activity in the financial markets, is expanding its corporate fraud inquiries in the wake of the tumult in the last 10 days, officials said Tuesday.

The F.B.I. has now opened preliminary investigations into possible fraud involving the four giant corporations at the center of the recent turmoil — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and the American International Group, The Associated Press reported.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said it was “logical to assume” that those four companies would come under investigation because of the many questions surrounding their recent collapse.

F.B.I. officials said Tuesday that the total number of corporate fraud investigations at the bureau was 26, an increase from the 24 open cases cited just a week ago by Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I. That number stood at 21 as recently as July, but the bureau has not named most of the targets.

Mr. Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the major corporate investigations are aimed at companies that “may have engaged in misstatements in the course of what transpired during this financial crisis.”

Read More

Paulson Bailout Plan a Historic Swindle

by: William Greider,
The Nation

Financial-market wise guys, who had been seized with fear, are suddenly drunk with hope. They are rallying explosively because they think they have successfully stampeded Washington into accepting the Wall Street Journal solution to the crisis: dump it all on the taxpayers. That is the meaning of the massive bailout Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has shopped around Congress. It would relieve the major banks and investment firms of their mountainous rotten assets and make the public swallow their losses - many hundreds of billions, maybe much more. What's not to like if you are a financial titan threatened with extinction?

If Wall Street gets away with this, it will represent an historic swindle of the American public - all sugar for the villains, lasting pain and damage for the victims. My advice to Washington politicians: Stop, take a deep breath and examine what you are being told to do by so-called "responsible opinion." If this deal succeeds, I predict it will become a transforming event in American politics - exposing the deep deformities in our democracy and launching a tidal wave of righteous anger and popular rebellion. As I have been saying for several months, this crisis has the potential to bring down one or both political parties, take your choice.

Read More

In Bailout Furor, Wall Street Pay Becomes a Target


Congress wants Wall Street to feel it where it hurts: the wallet.

The stratospheric pay packages of Wall Street executives have become a lightning rod issue as Congress shapes a $700 billion bailout for financial firms. Proposals circulating on Capitol Hill vary, but they all would impose some limits or approval authority on salaries of executives whose firms seek help.

The moves in Washington mirror the popular outcry — in constituent e-mail messages and postings in the blogosphere — over the prospect of Wall Street’s tarnished titans walking away with tens of millions of dollars a year while taxpayers pick up the bill.

But Wall Street, its lobbyists and trade groups are waging a feverish lobbying campaign to try to fight compensation curbs. Pay restrictions, they say, would sap incentives to hard work and innovation, and hurt the financial sector and the American economy.

Read More

$1 Trillion for Wall Street - $0 for Health Care

As Congress debates whether to hand over a $700,000,000,000 check to the Bush administration with no strings attached, conservatives are already arguing that none of that money should end up in the hand of regular people:

On Sunday Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson resisted suggestions that the program be changed to include further relief for homeowners facing mortgage foreclosures.

Mr. Paulson said Sunday that because financial markets remain under severe stress there is an urgent need for Congress to act quickly without adding other measures that could slow down passage. "We need this to be clean and to be quick," Mr. Paulson said in an interview on ABC's "This Week."

Mr. Paulson said he was concerned that debate over adding all of those proposals would slow the economy down, delaying the rescue effort that is so urgently needed to get financial markets moving again.

"The biggest help we can give the American people right now is to stabilize the financial system," Mr. Paulson said.

Shorter Paulson: Giving all the money to the people who caused this crisis is the best way for the masses to help themselves. Ain't trickle-down economics grand?

Read More

Cash for Trash

Some skeptics are calling Henry Paulson’s $700 billion rescue plan for the U.S. financial system “cash for trash.” Others are calling the proposed legislation the Authorization for Use of Financial Force, after the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the infamous bill that gave the Bush administration the green light to invade Iraq.

There’s justice in the gibes. Everyone agrees that something major must be done. But Mr. Paulson is demanding extraordinary power for himself — and for his successor — to deploy taxpayers’ money on behalf of a plan that, as far as I can see, doesn’t make sense.

Some are saying that we should simply trust Mr. Paulson, because he’s a smart guy who knows what he’s doing. But that’s only half true: he is a smart guy, but what, exactly, in the experience of the past year and a half — a period during which Mr. Paulson repeatedly declared the financial crisis “contained,” and then offered a series of unsuccessful fixes — justifies the belief that he knows what he’s doing? He’s making it up as he goes along, just like the rest of us.

So let’s try to think this through for ourselves. I have a four-step view of the financial crisis:

Read More

Retirees Filling the Front Line in Market Fears

Older Americans with investments are among the hardest hit by the turmoil in the financial markets and have the least opportunity to recover.

As companies have switched from fixed pensions to 401(k) accounts, retirees risk losing big chunks of their wealth and income in a single day’s trading, as many have in the last month.

“There’s a terrified older population out there,” said Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “If you’re 45 and the market goes down, it bothers you, but it comes back. But if you’re retired or about to retire, you might have to sell your assets before they have a chance to recover. And people don’t have the luxury of being in bonds because they don’t yield enough for how long we live.”

Today’s retirees have less money in savings, longer life expectancies and greater exposure to market risk than any retirees since World War II. Even before the last week of turmoil, 39 percent of retirees said they expected to outlive their savings, up from 29 percent in 2007, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, an industry-sponsored group in Washington.

“This really highlights the new world of retirement,” said Richard Johnson, a principal research associate at the Urban Institute in Washington. “It’s a much riskier world for retirees, because people don’t have defined-benefit plans. They have pots of money and they have to worry about making it last.”

Read More

Give Main Street a Fair Shake

By Katrina vanden Heuvel

The Administration has put a corporate-led bailout on the table with the threat that Congress pass it as is or face a worldwide economic catastrophe. We've seen this kind of shock and awe, do it our way or else, fear mongering before. Yes, action is needed, but that action must be smart, just and effective. Action must ensure that this taxpayer-funded rescue doesn't reward the very people on Wall Street who created this mess while shafting the needs of Main Street. The President, the Federal Reserve, SEC and Congressional committees responsible for regulation and oversight failed to act in the public or national interest and allowed this economic meltdown to reach crisis proportions. It's ironic that the same people and firms that preached free-market capitalism are the ones now demanding a speedy taxpayer bailout.

This bailout should be seized as an opportunity to start addressing the real economic crisis--the one on Main Street--where the struggle to make ends meet is increasingly more dire in an economy marked by job losses, crumbling infrastructure, the lowest levels of personal savings since the 1920s, Gilded Age inequality and the highest level of foreclosed homes since the Great Depression.

Read More

This Modern World - Tom Tomorrow

Foreign Banks Hope Bailout Will Be Global

PARIS — The financial crisis that began in the United States spread to many corners of the globe. Now, the American bailout looks as if it is going global, too, a move that could raise its cost and intensify scrutiny by Congress and critics.

Foreign banks, which were initially excluded from the plan, lobbied successfully over the weekend to be able to sell the toxic American mortgage debt owned by their American units to the Treasury, getting the same treatment as United States banks.

On Sunday, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., indicated in a series of appearances on morning talk shows that an original proposal introduced on Saturday had been widened. “It’s a distinction without a difference whether it’s a foreign or a U.S. one,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

The prospect of being locked out of the bailout set off alarm bells among chief executives of overseas banks whose American affiliates also hold distressed mortgage-related assets, like Barclays and UBS. The original text provided access to the $700 billion bailout for any financial institution based in the United States.

As the day wore on, some raised their concerns with the Treasury Department, arguing that foreign institutions were both big employers and major players in the American capital markets. By Saturday evening, the language had been changed to allow any financial institution “having significant operations” in the United States.

Read More

From: Bridge Loan to Nowhere

In response, the Men in Black have now gone to Congress. They have put a check for $700 billion and a loaded gun on the table. Sign the check, they insist, and give us unreviewable power to buy bad assets, or take responsibility for the collapse of the whole financial system and, likely, the world economy.

In America's money-driven political system, leaders of both parties love to pretend that the sound of money talking is the voice of the people. Both presidential candidates and Democratic Congressional leaders are mostly nodding, with the Democrats adding trademarked noises about balancing off gifts to Wall Street with mortgage relief, another small economic stimulus program and perhaps some curbs on executive pay. Meantime, save for a handful of splendid exceptions, notably Gretchen Morgenstern of the New York Times, American newspapers just keep giving their readers more reasons to keep deserting them.

Read the full article

Demand that the Bailout Legislation Be Rejected

We are witnessing a bankers' coup d’etat. In the name of saving the economy from a crisis created by their own greed and immense profits, the biggest bankers have taken a country and a people hostage.

“Give us your money and tear up what’s left of your Constitution or we will sink your economy,” is the message from Wall Street and the Bush Administration. “Give us the power and money we demand or you will be left jobless from a new economic depression."

Under the pretext of the banking crisis, the Bush Administration is changing the way this country operates. This is not simply taking trillions of dollars from the people and giving it to the richest bankers to do with as they see fit.

Click here to send your letter to Congress

Congress is poised to vote to give the Executive Branch of government, and specifically the White House’s political appointees in the Treasury Department, the absolute right to take our money and give it to domestic and foreign banks and corporations without any oversight of elected officials, from the courts, or from the people.

Read More

An Open Letter from Cliff Narby

September 23, 2008

Dear Congressman Hall, Senator Clinton and Senator Schumer,
I am writing to ask you to vote "no" to the Treasury Dept. and Federal Reserve sponsored $700 million bailout of our financial system.
I am angry at myself for not writing to you sooner about this matter.  Some of my friends and neighbors have been commenting for the past 2 years on the house of cards that is the mortgage business today, the "bubble" housing market, and on the mystery of derivatives (also a house of cards) used by the investment bankers, hedge funds and speculators.  I have no doubt that you have heard similar opinions.
I believe that this bailout is a band-aid.
There is no doubt in my mind that the consequences of no bailout will be severe, but those consequences are coming anyway.  I believe that you cannot permit the Administration to rush this ill-conceived legislation through your Congress.  The proposed $700 billion is going to be "created" by the Treasury - what do you think the effect of that flood of new money will be?  
I believe that we must face the music for all of the errors and sins that home buyers, brokers, mortgage companies, appraisers, lawyers, mortgage insurers and guarantors, banks, hedge funds, bond rating agencies, credit bureaus, investors, speculators, credit card companies and ordinary folk have committed in the past 5 years.
I believe that home buyers (not the speculators) knew, or should have known, what would follow when they bought more house than their income could support, accepting the mortgage companies' low interest or low payment terms in an ARM.  A $375,000 house with a $375,000 mortgage is not a prudent investment, nor a sound loan.  Their lawyer, at closing would have, or should have, warned them about future adjustments to their monthly payments.  Similarly, those who borrowed Home Equity loans for consumption purposes (I include motor vehicles) should have known what may happen when payment terms changed or they encountered other difficulties (loss of overtime, a job, etc.).  Imprudent citizens will have to lose their houses.  Job losses will have to be endured.  Economic recession or depression is an inevitable discipline that we will have to endure.
However, the faults of home buyers pale beside the immoral behaviour of the hedge funds, investment banks, mortgage companies, bond and credit rating agencies and other participants in the credit and futures markets.  I believe that these people were either criminally corrupt or criminally negligent as they borrowed mountains of debt on top of unsound mortgages, home equity loans and credit card debts, creating these so-called derivatives to do so. The executives of these enterprises knew very well that the lending and borrowing practices which their firms were pursuing were dangerously imprudent.
Please suggest some action to bring the CEOs and other senior officers of this group to account.  I would recommend criminal prosecution (same as Enron), jail and heavy fines (to extract the compensation that these individuals received while engineering this train wreck).
Our governments (federal and state) have been too slow to restrain the "irrational exuberance" of the housing, credit and futures markets.  No oversight has been applied to hedge funds and derivatives in giant mystery pools of capital and debt.  Inadequate attention has been applied by the Fed. to banks and their lending practices.  Same with state oversight of insurers.  There is no transparency in hedge funds and derivatives.
I believe that the proposed bailout is an outrageous offence to the taxpayer, who gets to foot the bill, covering the criminal or incompetent financial market participants.  It transfers wealth from all to a few.  The Treasury Department must not be given a free hand to buy bad assets from the financial industry.
Please ask Congress to ignore our current President and his administration.  Please consult with former (in my opinion) sound regulatory executives such as Paul Voelker, Alan Greenspan and Arthur Levitt
I am copying a number of my friends and neighbors (and others) and I urge them to lend their voices to the effort to block the bailout.  (Some may not agree with me!)
Yours sincerely,
Clifford G. Narbey
Carmel, NY 10512
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