Wednesday, April 1, 2015

No Fooling

 The president does not give a crap about you. 

In order for millions of mortgagors to save their underwater homes, all the newly-elected Barack Obama had to do in 2008 was give the O.K. to then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Obama could have made a moratorium on foreclosures a pre-condition of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. But like Bartleby the Scrivener, he preferred not to. 

We already knew, from former TARP inspector Neil Barofsky's Bailout, that Obama and his own treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, had made relief for the banking cartel their top priority. They used TARP money to "foam the runway" for the Too Big To Fail/Jails (TBTFJs) by spreading out the foreclosures in a gradual fashion so as not to overburden the pampered plutocrats with too much paperwork. (Much of which later turned out to be fraudulent anyway, but that's another story.)

Now, as Dave Dayen notes, former House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank has casually mentioned in his new memoir that President-elect Obama coldly, callously and deliberately threw millions of innocent victims of the financial meltdown under the bus. Just because he preferred to.
TARP was doled out in two tranches of $350 billion each. The Bush administration, still in charge during TARP’s passage in October 2008, used none of the first tranche on mortgage relief, nor did Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson use any leverage over firms receiving the money to persuade them to lower mortgage balances and prevent foreclosures. Frank made his anger clear over this ignoring of Congress’ intentions at a hearing with Paulson that November. Paulson argued in his defense, “the imminent threat of financial collapse required him to focus single-mindedly on the immediate survival of financial institutions, no matter how worthy other goals were.”
Whether or not you believe that sky-is-falling narrative, Frank kept pushing for action on foreclosures, which by the end of 2008 threatened one in 10 homes in America. With the first tranche of TARP funds running out by the end of the year, Frank writes, “Paulson agreed to include homeowner relief in his upcoming request for a second tranche of TARP funding. But there was one condition: He would only do it if the President-elect asked him to.”
Frank goes on to explain that Obama rejected the request, saying “we have only one president at a time.” Frank writes, “my frustrated response was that he had overstated the number of presidents currently on duty,” which equally angered both the outgoing and incoming officeholders.
Obama’s unwillingness to take responsibility before holding full authority doesn’t match other decisions made at that time. We know from David Axelrod’s book that the Obama transition did urge the Bush administration to provide TARP loans to GM and Chrysler to keep them in business. So it was OK to help auto companies prior to Inauguration Day, just not homeowners.
Now that Obama is in the twilight of his presidency, it is becoming safe for Democrats like Frank to come out of the closet and openly criticize the White House's corrupt allegiance to Wall Street. His fellow Massachusetts Democrat, Elizabeth Warren, has just added a bombshell of her own to the revised paperback edition of her own memoir, A Fighting Chance.  Missing from the original hardcover bestseller was an anecdote of a meeting she once held with Obama's favorite banker, Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase, to discuss government regulation of the TBTFJs:
When the conversation turned to financial regulation and Dimon began complaining about all the burdensome rules his bank had to follow, I finally interrupted. I was polite, but definite. No, I didn’t think the biggest banks were overregulated. In fact, I couldn’t believe he was complaining about regulatory constraints less than a year after his bank had lost billions in the infamous London Whale high-risk trading episode. I said I thought the banks were still taking on too much risk and that they seemed to believe the taxpayers would bail them out -- again -- if something went wrong.
Our exchange heated up quickly. By the time we got to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we weren’t quite shouting, but we were definitely raising our voices. At this point -- early in 2013 -- Rich Cordray was still serving as director of the consumer agency under a recess appointment; he hadn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate, which meant that the agency was vulnerable to legal challenges over its work. Dimon told me what he thought it would take to get Congress to confirm a director, terms that included gutting the agency’s power to regulate banks like his. By this point I was furious. Dodd-Frank had created default provisions that would automatically go into effect if there was no confirmed director, and his bank was almost certainly not in compliance with the those rules. I told him that if that happened, “I think you guys are breaking the law.”
Suddenly Dimon got quiet. He leaned back and slowly smiled. “So hit me with a fine. We can afford it.”
Dimon could well afford to sneer. Every time his bank gets slapped with token criminal charges by Obama's justice department for face-saving public relations purposes, he saunters over to Eric Holder's office to demand and get a sweetheart deal. Holder holds the requisite press conference, collects a fine (on paper only, because banks can always claw back the cash through declaring losses on their tax returns) and he and Jamie give each other big sloppy kisses under cover of darkness.

 Matt Taibbi, in one of his many articles exposing the criminal collusion between Wall Street and the White House,  quotes a financial reform advocate who describes the perfidy this way:
 "The kid-gloves approach that the DOJ and the SEC take with Wall Street is as inexplicable as it is indefensible," says Dennis Kelleher of the financial reform group Better Markets, which would later file suit challenging the Chase settlement. "They typically charge only one offense when there are dozens. It would be like charging a serial murderer with a single assault and giving them probation."
Taibbi was writing about the case of a former JPMC employee who blew the whistle on the bank, only to find herself out of a job and her whistleblowing hidden from public view by Eric Holder, thanks to Dimon paying a clawed-backed fine to the government in exchange for the A.G.'s silence.
This past year she (whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann)  watched as Holder's Justice Department struck a series of historic settlement deals with Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. The root bargain in these deals was cash for secrecy. The banks paid big fines, without trials or even judges – only secret negotiations that typically ended with the public shown nothing but vague, quasi-official papers called "statements of facts," which were conveniently devoid of anything like actual facts. 
After Jamie made his latest deal with Eric, he got a huge raise and the bank's stock value skyrocketed while hundreds of low-level employees were laid off. Crime really does pay during the Age of Obama.

The president not only does not give a crap about you. He openly despises you.

Still,  I guess we should count ourselves lucky that we don't live in Yemen, Somalia,Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya and all the other parts of the earth that the Nobel Peace laureate continues to bomb with impunity. Or in Egypt, whose murderous authoritarian ruler just got the Jamie Dimon treatment: a sweetheart deal from Obama of another billion dollars in aid, along with tanks, missiles and F-16s  in exchange for a meaningless promise to cut back on persecuting gays, jailing journalists and executing protesters.

Victimization-by-state is always, and only, a matter of degree.


Meredith NYC said...

Related...Krugman's blog today is called 'Jeb Bourbon' re his picks of financial advisors. Like the Bourbon French monarchy before the revolution, get it? He quotes Tallyrand. Pk is so egalitarian.

I commented:
Jeb Bourbon----very cute. But what about the Democratic Courtiers to the big financiers behind the US throne?

Why shouldn't Jeb and the gop be confident they can continue their pro Wall St policies? And the Dems just have to make the usual adjustments, as we see. Otherwise, where is the big money going to go? Each party is proving their ‘investment worthiness’, instead of trying to prove their vote worthiness for the majority of Americans--which as they taught us in school was the purpose of American democracy.

The big money primary is underway, entrenched by Citizens United. But is talking about CU ‘too liberal’?

Dems want to seem a little bit liberal---but not too, too much. So they dance to the Gop tune, keeping just enough distance to make them seem not anti middle class voter.

The gop is so far out in space that the Dems can seem anti gop, while not being actually pro middle class. They taught us in school about the Theory of Relativity--now as adults we can apply that to US candidates, orbiting around each other.

The Dems' candidate to be, HC, has made no statements yet on actual policy. Hold off to see how much big money she can attract. Then position herself just a bit to the left of the Gop, to create the ‘choice’ illusion. But being left of the US Gop is still to the right of most other world democracies. Be sure to keep that dark in our media and punditry.

Meredith NYC said...

Then poking around the web I found this, which relates to your Warren post yesterday.

From Obama....”Liberal Treasury Nominee’s Wall St. Prowess May Be a Vulnerability”....Nov. 27, 2014
Re Anthony Weiss
“If the Warren wing of the party can bring Mr. Weiss down, they say, prominent financiers may no longer play a significant role in Democratic administrations, which have turned to them since the Clinton years to bolster their business bona fides.”

“No deal is causing more trouble for him than Burger King’s “inversion” merger vs new rules the Treasury was proposing to stop US companies from reincorporating as foreign entities not subject to US taxes. Lazard itself gave up its US citizenship to reincorporate in Bermuda, using a loophole that the Bush administration later closed to deter copycats.”

And then what about Obama’s Jack Lew?

Sen Warren helped derail Obama treasury nominee Anthony Weiss, Lazard’s global head of mergers/nvestment banking, but as assistant to Jack Lew, “he will be as powerful as Lew wants him to be. His expertise in financial markets should make him indispensable to Lew”

From the Nation, Robert Scheer:
The Inconvenient Truth About Jack Lew
The track record of Obama's Treasury secretary nominee shows his financial incompetence and support for radical deregulation, leaving little hope that he will reign in Wall Street

annenigma said...

"The president not only does not give a crap about you. He openly despises you."

The feeling is mutual.

Cirze said...

Hear! Hear!

Do I hear a movement forming?

Denis Neville said...

The upper floors of our national house may have been integrated by the Black misleadership class, but the house is burning.

“Obama has done Wall Street a great service, and they know it. He has proven to be fantastically effective at serving the Supremely Evil. Don’t you dare call him the Lesser. He is the More Effective Evil because Black Folks – historically, the most progressive cohort in the United States – and Liberals, and even lots of folks that call themselves Marxists, let him get away murder! Yet, people still insist on calling him a Lesser Evil, while he drives a stake through Due Process of Law.” - Glen Ford

“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win. But I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had. And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

annenigma said...

"Still, I guess we should count ourselves lucky that we don't live in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya and all the other parts of the earth that the Nobel Peace laureate continues to bomb with impunity."

Blowback is coming in one form or another and we may yet see bombs exploding and the military in our streets. Actually, I think it's inevitable. The U.N. recently estimated at 25,000 have left countries to join Al Qaeda. Those are the ones that have left. What about those who stay put but whose sentiments they share? Oh, I forget, terrorists are born not made, and if they are drone killed, problem solved.

Nothing stays the same for long and that includes Empires. It doesn't doesn't always require military action to change things, and not for the better either. The tide is already turning on the economic front. Here's one example:

Dozens of countries have defied the US and joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank opposed by Washington. France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan and even Taiwan, a regional rival of China.

Japan is an exception, preferring to become our outsourced/proxy army/military colony in the Pacific for a dying Empire. Perhaps they want to take our place? They're already working on changing their Constitution to become fully militarized again. I don't think it will help them in the long run in their neighborhood. Economics, not just cyberwarfare. is the new weapon of choice for smart people and the Chinese are nothing if not very smart. Will brawn win over brains globally? I seriously doubt it, not in the 21st century.

Speaking of economics, the new and improved definition of terrorist threat is 'serious economic threat' which means disruption or risk to future imaginary earnings, which is why they crushed Occupy and why the TPP is focused on that. So the non-violent techniques recommended by Gene Sharp ('From Dictatorship to Democracy') could now be considered acts of economic terrorism if they cause the rich to shake in their jackboots. Welcome to the Homeland. Reverse engineering from Democracy to Dictatorship.

The Empire has studied Sharp's techniques for a long time and have used them abroad to assist revolutions that they incite, so what they're doing is ensuring that those techniques don't become operational in the Homeland. That's the nature of the evil we are up against and Warlord Obama is the current driving force. We're all considered potential terrorists - unless we raise our stiffened arm in salute to Empire, preferably at a slot machine, ATM, or cash register at a store near you.

The most discouraging thing for me is that Nature itself is not just threatened by man-made poisons of one sort of another and climate change, but will soon be on the auction block to those with deep pockets. We know why both parties believe in reducing the national debt while not raising taxes. It's to provide the pretext for privatizing the public commons to wealthy private interests.

Our public assets/commons will be sold to wealthy entities, and these will no doubt be multi-nationals with no allegiance or ties to our country. That doesn't even exist anymore in the major leagues of the corporate world.

The revolution will then be completed economically, not by human people but by global corporate beings.

No fooling.

Meredith NYC said...

@ annenigma
Thanks for head up:
“Dozens of countries have defied the US and joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank opposed by Washington. France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan and even Taiwan, a regional rival of China.”

Very interesting. That’s a lot of countries—we need discussion on this.

NPR has article, plus some comments: European Allies Defy U.S. In Joining China-Led Development Bank

NYT April 2.... Stampede to Join China’s Development Bank Stuns Even Its Founder:

“Scandinavian countries joined at the last minute because they have generous assistance budgets for poor countries and see the bank as a new platform to distribute quality aid.
“This is clearly in Denmark’s interest,” said Friis Arne Petersen, Denmark’s ambassador to China. “We can get inside and influence the bank. We see it as an infrastructure bank that will help development and eradicate poverty. There are still a lot of very poor people in Asia.”