Published: Tuesday 20 November 2012
“Maybe working until a later age is fine for a Wall Street CEO whose net worth is $450 million, but it’s simply nonsense to assert that the retirement age needs to go up because Social Security is no longer affordable.”

Lloyd Blankfein — evidently taking a break from doing “god’s work” as the CEO of Wall Street behemoth Goldman Sachs — told CBS News’ Scott Pelley that he believes the retirement age needs to be raised because “in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained:

BLANKFEIN: You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to ...

Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
The possible need for Christie's resignation arises from federal rules that forbid the employees of Wall Street firms from giving money to state officials running for federal office if the firms do business with that state.

 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's allies seemed to give a big old raspberry to presidential aspirant Mitt Romney on the front page of the New York Post today. Anonymous sources told the paper that Romney demanded Christie agree to resign the governorship if he was offered vice president on the GOP ticket. Christie was said to have declined since he didn't think Romney would win.

A spokesman for Christie said they were not commenting on the Post's report and suggested contacting the Romney campaign, which did not respond to emailed questions.

The possible need for Christie's resignation arises from federal rules that forbid the employees of Wall Street firms from giving money to state officials running for federal office if the firms do business with that state. The rules affect firms that underwrite municipal bonds or advise state pension systems on their investments. If the public official — in this case, the governor of New Jersey — has any influence, directly or indirectly, in selecting the pension investment advisers or bond underwriters, the firms can't give campaign contributions.

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Published: Saturday 11 August 2012
“In highly unequal societies, the very rich are prone to seek affirmation of their personal worth through extravagant displays of excess.”

 

The political debate in the United States and Europe has focused attention on public financial deficits and how best to resolve them. Tragically, the debate largely ignores the deficits that most endanger our future.

In the United States, as Republican deficit hawks tell the story, “America is broke. We must cut government spending on social programs we cannot afford. And we must lower taxes on Wall Street job creators so they can invest to get the economy growing, create new jobs, increase total tax revenues, and eliminate the deficit.”

Democrats respond, “Yes, we’re pretty broke, but the answer is to raise taxes on Wall Street looters to pay for government spending that primes the economic pump by putting people to work building critical infrastructure and performing essential public services. This puts money in people’s pockets to spend on private sector goods and services and is our best hope to grow the economy.”

Democrats have the better side of the argument, but both sides have it wrong on two key points.

  • First, both focus on growing GDP, ignoring the reality that under the regime of Wall Street rule, the benefits of GDP growth over the past several decades have gone almost exclusively to the 1 percent—with dire consequences for democracy and the health of the social and natural capital on which true prosperity depends. 
  • Second, both focus on financial deficits, which can be resolved with relative ease if we are truly serious about it; and ignore far more dangerous and difficult-to-resolve social and environmental deficits. I call it a case of deficit attention disorder.

To achieve the ideal of a world that secures health and prosperity for all people for generations to come, we must reframe the public debate ...

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
“The American Robin Hoods are seeking economic justice.”

Robin Hood popped up all across America last week. A bunch of green-suited Merry Men protested in front of Wall Street bank branches in 15 cities.

Another felt-hatted group demonstrated in Washington D.C. during J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon's testimony about why his bank shouldn’t submit to regulation even after flushing $2 billion down the toilet. The biggest band of Robin Hoods appeared on dollar bills -- a pointy hat drawn on George's head and the words “Robin Hood tax” written below.

The American Robin Hoods are seeking economic justice. They want Congress to resurrect the financial transactions tax. This is the Robin Hood tax, a tiny levy on the sale of stuff like stocks, bonds, derivatives, futures and credit default swaps. It packs two benefits in one tax. It would give the government cash to offset the cost of the Wall Street-caused recession. And it would suppress the high-risk, high-speed trading that caused the crash. Britain, home of Robin Hood, already charges a form of it. Ten European Union countries plan to institute it. America needs it.

It’s not new. The United States collected the tax for half of the 20th Century. During the Great Depression, Congress doubled it to help pay for recovery. It’s not novel.Twenty-nine countries charge it now, including Brazil, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland. It’s the opposite of a ...

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“Dimon’s foreign affair is itself proof that unless the overseas operations of Wall Street banks are covered by U.S. regulations, giant banks like JPMorgan will just move more of their betting abroad – hiding their wildly-risky bets overseas so U.S. regulators can’t control them.”

 

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the main regular of derivatives (bets on bets), wants to extend Dodd-Frank regulations to the foreign branches and subsidiaries of Wall Street banks.

Horror of horrors, say the banks.

“If JPMorgan overseas operates under different rules than our foreign competitors,” warned Jamie Dimon, chair and CEO of JP Morgan, Wall Street would lose financial business to the banks of nations with fewer regulations, allowing “Deutsche Bank to make the better deal.”

This is the same Jamie Dimon who chose London as the place to make highly-risky derivatives trades that have lost the firm upwards of $2 billion so far – and could leave American taxpayers holding the bag if JPMorgan’s exposure to tottering European banks gets much worse.

Dimon’s foreign affair is itself proof that unless the overseas operations of Wall Street banks are covered by U.S. regulations, giant banks like JPMorgan will just move more of their betting abroad – hiding their wildly-risky bets overseas so U.S. regulators can’t control them. Even now no one knows how badly JPMorgan or any other Wall Street bank will be shaken if major banks in Spain or elsewhere in Europe go down.

Call it the Dimon loophole.

This is the same Jamie Dimon, by the way, who at a financial conference a year ago told Fed chief Ben Bernanke there was no longer any reason to crack down on Wall Street. “Most of the bad actors are gone,” he said. “[O]ff-balance-sheet businesses are virtually obliterated, … money market funds are far more transparent” and “most very exotic derivatives are gone.”

One advantage of being a huge Wall Street bank is you get bailed out by the federal government when you make dumb bets. Another is you can choose where around the world to make the dumb bets, thereby dodging U.S. regulations. It’s a ...

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“Nobody in Washington is telling people the truth: Focusing on deficits during a recession-cum-depression is wrongheaded, foolish, and destructive.”

On a recent Meet the Press face-off between Democrats and Republicans, a politician claimed we urgently need to cut government spending. He embraced a plan to slash vital government programs and gut retirement security, while actuallycutting taxes for the rich. The only tax hikes in his plan were targeted toward the already-devastated middle class.

Then it was time for the Republican to speak.

Who'd have thought it? Progressive stalwarts like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dick Durbin are pushing the same radical austerity plan as Jamie Dimon, CEO of troubled megabank JPMorgan Chase, and Robert Rubin, the Clinton ...

Published: Sunday 29 April 2012
Also called International Workers’ Day, it’s a holiday in more than 80 countries

If the mainstream media was confused about Occupy Wall Street in its early days in Zuccotti Park, they’re bound to be completely befuddled this May Day.

May Day already has a lot piled on it. In pre-Christian Europe, May Day was a time to dance, light bonfires, sing, and carry on in celebration of the changing seasons. May Day also marks the anniversary of the 1886 Haymarket massacre, which occurred during a Chicago strike for the eight-hour workday. Also called International Workers’ Day, it’s a holiday in more than 80 countries.

And most recently, the U.S. immigrants right movement has used May 1st for massive street demonstrations and strikes aimed at reforming laws and policies that result in imprisonment, deportation, and discrimination against undocumented people.

This May Day, the Occupy movement is getting involved, calling it “The day without the 99 percent.” What will May Day look like with so many traditions riding on it?

May Day Collaborations—from Bike Caravan to Free University

The way plans are shaping up, in at least some locations around the United States, it could be big, festive, and importantly, include elements of all the May Day traditions. And it could be profoundly different than the big days of action we’ve seen in the past. In the weeks leading up to May Day, various movements have been collaborating. And people will not only be protesting, they’ll be liberating spaces for education, the arts, general assemblies, and teach-ins.

There will be marches, of course. Some permitted, planned, and predictable. Others will be spontaneous, possibly disruptive. In ...

Published: Thursday 19 April 2012
“The real news here is new-found activism among institutional investors – especially the managers of pension funds and mutual funds.”

The shareholders of Wall Street giant Citigroup are out to prove that corporate democracy isn’t an oxymoron. They’ve said no to the exorbitant $15 million pay package of Citi’s CEO Vikram Pandit, as well as to the giant pay packages of Citi’s four other top executives.

The vote, at Citigroup’s annual meeting in Dallas Tuesday, isn’t binding on Citigroup. But it’s a warning shot across the bow of every corporate boardroom in America.

Shareholders aren’t happy about executive pay.

And why should they be? CEO pay at large publicly-held corporations is now typically 300 times the pay of the average American worker. It was 40 times average worker pay in the 1960s and has steadily crept upward since then as corporations have morphed into “winner-take-all” contraptions that reward their top executives with boundless beneficence and perks while slicing the jobs, wages, and benefits of almost everyone else.

Meanwhile, too many of these same corporations have failed to deliver for their shareholders. Citigroup, for example, has had the worst stock performance among all large banks for the last decade but ranked among the highest in executive pay.

The real news here is new-found activism among institutional investors – especially the managers of pension funds and mutual funds. They’re the ones who fired the warning shot Tuesday.

Institutional investors are catching on to a truth they should have understood years ago: When executive pay goes through the roof, there’s less money left for everyone else who owns shares of the company.

For too long, most fund managers played the game passively and obediently. Some have been too cozy with top corporate management, forgetting their fiduciary duty to their own investors. How else do you explain the abject failure of fund managers to police Wall Street as it careened toward the abyss in 2008? Or to adequately ...

Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
Tom Hayden, principal author of the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which advocated for participatory democracy and helped launch the student movement of the 1960s.

We speak with Tom Hayden, principal author of the Port Huron Statement 50 years ago, the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The Statement advocated for participatory democracy and helped launch the student movement of the 1960s. Tens of thousands of copies of the 25,000-word document were printed in booklet form. "It must have been something in the air, something blowing in the wind, and we wanted to write an agenda for our generation," Hayden says. The youth-led movement changed the very language of politics, and its impact is still being felt today. "The logic of an occupation, I think, is if you feel voiceless about a burning issue of great, great importance, and the institutions have failed you, the only way to get leverage for your voice is to occupy their space in order to get their attention," Hayden says. "This goes way back to occupations of factories in the ’30s. ... Occupy Wall Street is only the latest stage."

Transcript: 

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, today we look at the birth of an earlier political movement, known by three short letters. This youth-led movement ...

Published: Monday 9 April 2012
“A constant barrage of propaganda in the form of fake science, contrived and propagated by massive, obscenely wealthy multi-national energy corporations, is one reason for the dismal and still declining number of the populace who cannot discern truth-seeking scientific inquiry from the dissembling of a big money-bribed cadre of hacks and PR flacks.”

Wall Street is again flush with the electronic facsimile of the stuff once known as money. But this is a Botox Recovery: A superficial procedure, accomplished with a nerve paralyzing poison, reserved for the wealthy whose vanity has driven them to transform their faces into caricatures of corruption…to acquiring a countenance, frozen as a creepy doll, incapable of showing emotion -- a grotesque simulacrum of the human face. 

 

A Botox-distorted face reveals an individual with a distorted view of existence: that life's limits, in this case the process of aging, must be hidden, and by doing so, artifice trumps reality. In a similar manner, life under our current Botoxed economic and political structure seems a gruesome distortion of life itself -- a desperate gambit to veil the carnage inflicted by the monstrous excesses of oligarchic and Anthropocene Age exploitation of populace and planet.  

 

Upon seeing the face of a narcissist whose features have been willingly disfigured by Botox, one wonders the obvious: Does he even look in the mirror?

 

Yes. But, as is the case with the One Percent, he only sees what he is desperate to see. He has succeeded in fooling himself, thus he believes he fools all who have the misfortune to gaze upon him.

 

A stammered truth is more resonate to the heart than a well-told lie. Unfortunately, a habitually dissembling mindset will view the situation in reverse. All too often, internalized systems of viewing an unfolding event will determine an individual’s take on a given situation. If the institutions (e.g., familial, religious, governmental, mass media) that have influenced one’s method of perception are themselves compromised by internalized, self-resonating biases, then a type of carnival funhouse mirror effect comes into play (both on an individual and culture-wide basis) whereby distortions reflect distortions that, in ...

Published: Friday 27 January 2012
“Obama should shine in comparison with his Republican challenger, but there is little in his State of the Union speech to suggest he will chart a much-needed new course in his second term.”

I’ll admit it: Listening to Barack Obama, I am ready to enlist in his campaign against the feed-the-rich Republicans ... until I recall that I once responded in the same way to Bill Clinton’s faux populism. And then I get angry because betrayal by the “good guys” for whom I have ended up voting has become the norm.

Yes, betrayal, because if Obama meant what he said in Tuesday’s State of the Union address about holding the financial industry responsible for its scams, why did he appoint the old Clinton crowd that had legalized those scams to the top economic posts in his administration? Why did he hire Timothy Geithner, who has turned the Treasury Department into a concierge service for Wall Street tycoons? 

Why hasn’t he pushed for a restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act, which Clinton’s deregulation reversed? Does the president really believe that the Dodd-Frank slap-on-the-wrist sellout represents “new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like this never happens again”? Can he name one single too-big-to-fail banking monstrosity that has been reduced in size on his watch instead of encouraged to grow ever larger by Treasury and Fed bailouts and interest-free money?

When Obama declared Tuesday evening “no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving ...

Published: Thursday 12 January 2012
“According to the Wall Street Journal, of 77 companies Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure there, 22 percent either filed for bankruptcy or closed their doors by end of eighth year after Bain’s investment.”

It’s one thing to criticize Mitt Romney for being a businessman with the wrong values. It’s quite another to accuse him and his former company, Bain Capital, of doing bad things. If what Bain Capital did under Romney was bad for society, the burden shifts to Romney’s critics to propose laws that would prevent Bain and other companies from doing such bad things in the future.

Don’t hold your breath.

Newt Gingrich says Bain under Romney carried out “clever legal ways to loot a company.” Gingrich calls it the “Wall Street model” where “you can basically take out all the money, leaving behind the workers,” and charges that “if someone comes in, takes all the money out of your company and then leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that’s not traditional capitalism.”

Where has Newt been for the last thirty years? Leveraged buyouts became part of traditional capitalism in the 1980s when enterprising financiers began borrowing piles of money, often at high interest rates, to buy up the stock of ongoing companies they believe undervalued. They’d back the loans with the company assets, then typically sell off divisions and slim payrolls, and resell the company to the public at a higher share price – pocketing the gains.

It’s a good deal for the financiers (the $25 billion buyout of RJR-Nabisco in 1988 netted the partners of Kohlberg, Kravis, and Roberts around $70 million each – and most of Mitt Romney’s estimated $200 million fortune comes from the same maneuvers), but not always for the company or its workers.

Some workers lose their jobs when the company downsizes. Others, when the company, now laden with debt, can’t meet its payments to creditors and has to go into bankruptcy. According to the Wall Street Journal, of 77 companies Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure there, 22 ...

Published: Thursday 8 December 2011
The Justice Department has decided that holding top Wall Street executives criminally accountable is too difficult a task.

It’s an issue we and others have noted again and again: Years after the financial crisis, there have still been no prosecutions of top executives at the major players in the financial crisis.

Why’s that? Well, according to a now-departed Justice Department official who used to be in charge of investigating such matters, the Justice Department has decided that holding top Wall Street executives criminally accountable is too difficult a task.

David Cardona, who recently left the FBI for a job at the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the Wall Street Journal that bringing financial wrongdoing to account is “better left to regulators,” who can bring civil cases. Civil cases, of course, can produce penalties from the banks -- as well as promises to be on better behavior -- but don’t put any executives behind bars. Here’s the Journal:

While at the FBI, Mr. Cardona oversaw dozens of criminal probes of large financial firms. The FBI's probes haven't led to any successful prosecutions of high-profile executives in relation to the financial crisis, despite demands from some lawmakers and angry Americans. In contrast, the SEC has filed crisis-related civil-fraud cases against 81 firms and individuals, and it has ...

Published: Monday 10 October 2011
“Over the past few years, many of the largest health insurance firms have converted from nonprofit to for-profit status and have been acquired by huge corporations whose stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.”

The lobbyists for U.S. health insurers surely have to be feeling a little uneasy knowing that thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who have been marching and protesting in Washington as well as New York and other cities might target them in the days ahead. After all, the headquarters of the insurers’ biggest lobbying and PR group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., is just blocks away from Freedom Plaza, where the demonstrators have set up camp, and problems with health insurers appear to be near the top of the list of protesters’ concerns.

Health Care for America Now, an umbrella advocacy group that played a key role in the health care reform debate, last week analyzed the 546 comments that had been posted by then on “We are the 99 percent“ Tumblr site. It found that 262 of the comments mention such problems as getting denials for doctor-ordered care from their insurance companies and having to forego treatment because of hefty out-of-pocket costs.

In my book, Deadly Spin , I wrote about how the “Wall ...

Published: Thursday 8 September 2011
A new jobs plan is thinking too small. What we need is a new economy.

Like most white middle class Americans of my generation, I grew up believing that our strong market economy and democratic political institutions make us the world's greatest and most prosperous nation. The America of my youth was the product of a strong social contract that said we are all in this together—at least the white folks—and we all do best when we all do well. That contract made America the envy of the world. With the civil rights movement, many of us hoped we could expand the contract to truly include everyone.

Then Wall Street got greedy, abandoned the contract, and created a winner-take-all economy controlled by an oligarchy dedicated to growing its personal financial assets. Contrary to what Wall Street propagandists would have us believe, Wall Street is a job killer, not a job creator. It prospers by depressing wages, eliminating and outsourcing American jobs, and extracting usurious interest rates from Americans forced to borrow to put food on the table or to maintain a middle class lifestyle. The result is an America in decline and out of work.

Wall Street flies the American flag when it is convenient. It relates to America, however, as an alien occupier,  READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 23 August 2011
Matt Taibbi exposes how SEC shredded thousands of investigations

An explosive new report in Rolling Stone magazine exposes how the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s largest banks and hedge funds, including AIG, Wells Fargo, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and top Wall Street broker Bernard Madoff. Last week, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said an agency whistleblower had sent him a letter detailing the unlawful destruction of records detailing more than 9,000 information investigations. We speak with Matt Taibbi, the political reporter for Rolling Stone magazine who broke this story in his latest article, "Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?"

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