Wednesday, March 14, 2012





Records show that four out of Obama's top five contributors are employees of financial industry giants - Goldman Sachs ($571,330), UBS AG ($364,806), JPMorgan Chase ($362,207) and Citigroup ($358,054).


“Obama's rhetoric covered the whole financial industry, but the key changes will affect only a few high-profile players, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., while sparing investment banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc.”


Lou Dobbs Tonight

Thursday, July 9, 2009

And Harvard economics professor JEFFREY MIRON will weigh in on the state of the U.S. economy—and why the only plausible argument for bailing out banks crumbles on close examination.


"There is a populist and conservative revolt against Wall Street and financial elites, Congress and government," Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg warned in an analysis this week. "Democrats and President Obama are seen as more interested in bailing out Wall Street than helping Main Street."


August 21, 2010   

 Janet Tavakoli.President, Tavakoli Structured Finance

August 15, 2010  

How to Thwart the Assassins of the American Dream

Arianna Huffington's new book, Third World America: How Our Politicians are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream, paints a grim picture of the State of the Union:

"Every day, Americans, faced with layoffs and tough economic times, are forced to use their credit cards to pay for essentials such as food, housing, and medical care -- the costs of which continue to escalate. But, as their debt rises, they find it harder to keep up with their payments. When they don't, banks, trying to offset losses in other areas, turn around, hike interest rates, and impose all manner of fees and penalties..."

Third World America, (P. 77)

Our mediocre grammar school and high school educational system continues its downward slide. The Great Recession is squeezing school budgets. We are failing our children, our most important resource of all.

In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation's infrastructure a near failing D rating:

"Flip on a light switch, and you are tapping into a seriously overtaxed electrical grid. Go to the sink, and your tap water may be coming to you through pipes built during the Civil War. Take a drive, and pass over pothole-filled roads and cross-if-you-dare bridges. The evidence of decay is all around us." (P. 95)

The over-hyped American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 earmarked only $72 billion of the $787 billion appropriation of taxpayer dollars to projects to improve the country's infrastructure.

Meanwhile, multi-national corporations avoid taxes, sheltering $700 billion in foreign earnings to end up with a measly $16 billion (2.3%) tax bill. GM is among those companies, yet it took almost a half billion dollars in bailout loans. Boeing and KBR Halliburton are among the defense contractors that avoid taxes, while enjoying government contracts worth tens of billions.

Banks (not Fannie and Freddie) Crippled the Housing Market

Fannie and Freddie do not make loans. They purchase mortgage loans and earn fees for guaranteeing payments on the loans. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, in 2006, Fannie and Freddie accounted for 33% of total mortgage backed securities issuance. In the first half of 2010, they accounted for around 64% of new issuance. They were forced to pick up the slack and buy more when Wall Street's private label securitization Ponzi scheme blew up.

Fannie and Freddie are Wall Street's dumping ground. They would have had problems on their own, but their problems would not have been close to their current scale, and they did not create the housing bubble.

Congress twisted arms to make Fannie and Freddie buy more than $300 billion of phony "AAA" rated mortgage-backed securities from banks, not counting loans that didn't meet their stated requirements. Today Fannie and Freddie want banks to repurchase tens of billions of these loans, since they fail to meet representations and warranties, and the banks are fighting this obligation.



Records show that four out of Obama's top five contributors are employees of financial industry giants - Goldman Sachs ($571,330), UBS AG ($364,806), JPMorgan Chase ($362,207 ) and Citigroup ($358,054).


Top subprime lenders included Wells Fargo; Countrywide, purchased by Bank of America; Washington Mutual, now part of JPMorgan Chase; CitiMortgage, part of Citigroup; First Franklin (now closed), purchased by Merrill Lynch, which was purchased by Bank of America; ChaseHome Finance, JPMorgan Chase; Ownit, partly owned by Merrill Lynch, which was later purchased by Bank of America; and EMC, part of Bear Stearns, which was purchased by JPMorgan Chase. Most of the rest depended on massive loans from Wall Street. Many of these lenders were sued by states for fraud and paid billions in settlements.

According to Inside Mortgage Finance, the top mortgage backed securities underwriters during 2005-2006, only two of the subprime abuse years, included now defunct Lehman Brothers ($106 billion); RBS Greenwich Capital ($99 billion); Countrywide Securities, which is now part of Bank of America ($74 billion); Morgan Stanley ($74 billion);Credit Suisse First Boston ($73 billion); Merrill Lynch ($67 billion); Bear Stearns, which is now part of JPMorgan Chase ($61 billion); and Goldman Sachs ($53 billion).

The above doesn't even include the credit derivatives, collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), and structured investment vehicles (SIVs) that amplified losses. Yet, Arianna notes how America imploded while bankers soared:

"Someone like [Robert] Rubin is able to wreak destruction, collect an ungodly profit, then go along his merry way, pontificating about how 'markets have an inherent and inevitable tendency -- probably rooted in human nature -- to go to excess, both on the upside and the downside.' This from the man who, as Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary, was vociferous in opposing the regulation of derivatives -- a key factor in the current economic crisis -- and who lobbied the Treasury during the Bush years to prevent the downgrading of the credit rating of Enron -- a debtor of Citigroup." (P. 150)

Robert Rubin operated an economic wrecking-ball from prestigious positions of influence including former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, director of the National Economic Council, former Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, board member and senior "risk wizard" counselor at Citigroup, member of the President's Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations, member of the SEC's Oversight and Financial Services Advisory Committee, unofficial econmic adviser to President Obama, and co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Rubin is just one example of the many bankers, who helped destroy the economy while creating a connected financial oligarchy.

Hide Billions of Losses, Take Bailouts, Collect Billions, Skip Jail

Instead of apologizing for screwing up, the banks demanded the Great Bailout. At the start of the meltdown, the IMF and the U.S. administration estimated losses of $2 to $2.5 trillion. Unemployment and the losses are now shockingly worse. What was merely a recession escalated into the Great Recession.

How big are the actual losses? No one knows.

After destroying the value of major banks, culprits used their enormous political influence -- funded with taxpayer dollars -- to get Congress to force the accounting board to change accounting rules (as of April 2009) so banks don't have to recognize losses until they sell the assets.

According to William K. Black, after the much tinier S&L crisis, there were over 1,000 successful felony prosecutions, several thousand successful enforcement actions, and roughly 1,000 successful civil actions.

This time Congress gave us the Great Cover-up. Bank officers dodged jail time and collected billions in bonuses. As one of my South American friends observes, he's witnessed this third-world corruption before, and this time it's in English.

Banks Stall the Recovery and Prolong the Great Recession

Unemployment marched upward, delinquencies soared, and banks stalled foreclosures. The longer banks delay foreclosures and sales, the longer they can avoid acknowledging losses. Phony accounting and zero cost funding from taxpayers created an illusion of recovery.

Stalling helps banks while they pressure Congress to bail out failed mortgages with taxpayer dollars. Instead of working out mortgages with homeowners, they can wait for a government program to buyout or subsidize their failing loans. The markets aren't recovering, because banks own colossal chunks of mystery-meat assets.

It's a black hole of debt. If banks were forced to price these assets at market values and sell them, the market would clear, and the market would make a faster recovery. When Japan did this, it stalled its economy for twenty years, and it still hasn't recovered.

Voters Must Demand the Solution

Voters must demand that Congress uncovers and publicizes facts and prosecutes the financial system's massive multi-year frauds. This will mean thousands of felony prosecutions, enforcement actions, and civil actions.

Congress completely failed in genuine regulation and enforcement. It must start over on financial reform, regulate derivatives, commodities trading, update Glass-Steagall, and more. It will have to break-up the Too Big to Fail financial institutions.

CEOs of our Systemically Dangerous Institutions (SDI's) fail to manage them, because no one is capable of doing it. Like a morbidly obese junk food addict, banks won't even get on a scale. Our banks refuse to properly measure (account for) the problem.

Third World America elegantly summarizes the way forward. Arianna Huffington names the culprits and gives a roadmap for solutions. The rest is up to us. We deserve better than a third world economy divided by ultra-rich on one side and debt-ridden middle class and dirt poor citizens on the other. Citizens must demand a clean-up of corruption and a foundation for healthy growth.





Senate and House conferees are about to reconcile a financial reform bill that is virtually designed to institutionalize "too big to fail." And when they do we'll lose another battle in the ongoing war between global financial markets and democratic nation-states.

This war has been going on for decades -- but democracy hasn't always been in full retreat.

The New Deal Conquest: During the Great Depression democratic forces gained the upper hand in the war. We realized that financial markets, which are driven by the largest banks and financiers, had to be tightly controlled. We knew that global speculation on currencies only deepened the Depression and had to be strictly limited. We knew that an iron curtain was needed between commercial and investment banking to protect Main Street depositors from market madness (that was the Glass-Steagall Act). And most importantly we knew that the key to preventing economic upheaval was to limit the wealth of the super-rich and to increase the wealth of working people through progressive taxes, Social Security, wage and hour laws, and the promotion of unionization. The Bretton Woods agreements forged by the Allies during WWII set up strict rules for global finance, rules that kept financiers in check for more than a quarter century.

And it worked pretty damn well. As economist Joseph Stiglitz points out, this era saw only one financial crisis (Brazil, 1964), and working people in western democracies made huge gains. Since the era of deregulation took hold in the late 1970s, the world has suffered over a hundred financial crises and middle-class incomes have stagnated.

The Deregulatory Counter-Offensive: By the late 1970s, bankers regained the advantage through the spread of a new faith in self-regulated markets. The economic apostles of unfettered markets lobbied against progressive taxes, unions, and social welfare programs. The new orthodoxy was: Let the elites collect the money--they'll invest wisely (instead of consuming), and all boats will rise. This near-religious revolution rapidly spread through the economic and policy establishment. Regulations were dismantled right and left, and the revolving door between government and Wall Street started spinning. The American financial catechism ruled the world. And on Wall Street, the money tap was open. It did not trickle down.

Then, suddenly, in 2008, the market gods destroyed themselves as the unregulated financial casinos crashed and burned, just like they did in 1929. For a few months, it seemed like the deregulatory theology become a global heresy. It was obvious that Wall Street's reckless speculation and its bold new wave of financial engineering had caused the Great Recession. (See The Looting of America for an accessible account.). It was also clear that if government didn't come to the rescue, Wall Street would lay in ruins, along with the rest of the economy. This was the perfect moment for democracy reassert democratic control on financial markets, just as we did during the New Deal. We blew it.

The Victory at Too Big to Fail: At the moment when Wall Street was on its knees, we decided to bypass serious reform. Instead, we rebuilt Wall Street, using taxpayer money and guarantees - more than $10 trillion worth. We let bankers use our bailout money to pay themselves $150 billion in bonuses -- at a moment when over 29 million Americans were jobless or forced into part-time jobs. We allowed the top hedge fund managers to walk off with over $900,000 an hour (not a typo) in 2009. Windfall profits taxes? No. In fact we let hedge fund honchos pay an extra-low tax rate by calling their income "capital gains." We didn't restore Glass-Steagall, we didn't break up "too big to fail" financial institutions. In fact the biggest banks became even bigger, courtesy of the U.S. government.

The Invasion against Democracy: The war is escalating. Right now, financial elites aren't just fighting a defensive battle against new regulations. They're playing offense: They're whipping up deficit hysteria around the globe and calling for drastic cuts in middle class programs. Why? They want to ensure that their loans to governments aren't threatened by rising public debt. Ironically, the public debt they're so worried about was created in large part by them -- the result of huge bailouts and other expenses stemming from the crash they caused. Although the bankers want us to dismantle what remains of our worker-oriented policies, welfare for the financial elites is still fine and dandy.

This is the most dangerous counter attack in the history of finance. We had better know a great deal more about the attackers. Who makes up this shadowy force called "global markets"? Who fights their battles? Do they have a high command?

Not really. There is no executive committee of financial elites. There's no international conspiracy, no Elders of Zion. Instead these markets are pulled and pushed by about 50 very large banks and financial institutions. This is where much of the nation's $2 trillion in hedge fund money roams. This is where the top six US banks frolic. They don't have to sit around a table strategizing. They instantly sense threats to their power. They instantly smell profitable openings and they're poised to grab what they can, whenever they can. They thrive on turmoil, which gives them new "proprietary" trading opportunities to exploit. Volatility means big bucks, especially now that the largest players know that the government will back up even their wildest gambles. History has just proven that they are way too big to fail.

Of course they still have to lobby government officials--many of whom either were bankers, or will be once they leave office. But their most powerful lever on government is through the market itself: Here, by moving vast quantities of money around, they can instantly veto policies they don't like. If the EU talks seriously about financial transaction taxes, the markets go down the Euro grows weaker, and interest rates rise--making it more expensive for governments to borrow the money they need to operate. Politicians have learned to "listen" to the markets and are conditioned to placate them.

Should a nation state get out of line (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc), the markets slap them silly. Politicians rush to the scene and start slicing social spending. If instead they demand new taxes on financial elites to reduce public debt, the markets respond with even more fury. Money flees.

All the external machinery of democracy still clanks along. We still pull the levers in the voting booth. But the decisions that affect us the most are made in a profoundly undemocratic way. Faceless financial markets exercise far more control over politicians than the voters who elected them.

So the problem isn't just the corporate campaign contributions, or corporate media control or the academic consensus supporting our financial theocracy. It's the raw power of the markets. They've been roaming free and virtually unregulated for more than a generation, and now their power is unparalleled. Just months after they brought our economy crashing down, they're right back to their old tricks, setting the stage for the next crash and the next bailout while getting filthy rich along the way.

Bill Clinton nailed it on the head when he reportedly said:

"You mean to tell me that the success of the economic program and my reelection hinges on the Federal Reserve and a bunch of fxxxing bond traders?" (See Agenda by Bob Woodward)

No Retreat, No Surrender? There's no room for pacifists in this war. Clearly, Wall Street and its global minions are not seeking a truce. Instead, they're coming after our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs. They want us to work longer before we retire and get less when we do. They want us to pay more for health care and get less of it. They want less public money to go to schools, teachers and public infrastructures. And they want us to get used to a jobless recovery with double digit unemployment rates. (And when millions and millions of people are unemployed, we can't maintain high labor standards, and our wages and benefits erode.) In short, they want to undermine all the policies and programs that have built and sustained middle class life.

Already government officials in the UK, Germany and here are telling us we must endure austerity for "decades to come." As Fed Chair Ben Bernanke candidly put it:

"We can see what problems can arise in a country if investors lose confidence in the fiscal position of that country, so it is very important that we address this problem."

Of course, he's not going to point out that this austerity is only for the masses, definitely not for the financial elites. Or that the underlying cause of the debt investors are so worried about is the giant economic crater caused by the very same financial elites who now might "lose confidence" in financing a middle class society.

We shouldn't kid ourselves about the pitched battles ahead. Fighting back won't be easy, and winning will be even harder. People in country after country will have to mobilize themselves in defense of real democracy, in defense of each nation's right to provide its people with a decent quality of life. In my opinion, that includes sustainable jobs with decent benefits and a solid public infrastructure that promotes equity, protects the vulnerable and enriches the environment.

Unfortunately, no one can guarantee that democracy will prevail in the war against financial theocracy -- just recall the totalitarian chaos in Europe during the Great Depression. But don't count it out, either. It's true that many of us regular folks have been diverted by the media, distracted by the Internet or lulled into a stupor by pharmaceuticals. But when we realize that we've been shoved into a corner with no way out, we'll act. A popular struggle will begin. And when it does, we'll at least have a fighting chance to recapture our democratic souls.


“Altogether, Goldman, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley will gain nearly $20 billion in tax breaks from their employee compensation this year.


“Records show that four out of Obama's top five contributors are employees of financial industry giants - Goldman Sachs ($571,330), UBS AG ($364,806), JPMorgan Chase ($362,207) and Citigroup ($358,054).







January 23, 2010

Banks May Get Help to Escape Risk Limits

Only a year after the government stepped in to aid Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley by granting them access to the federal safety net, policy makers are developing an exit path that would allow them and others to escape limits on banks being proposed by the Obama administration.

President Obama wants to limit the scope of risk-taking by barring banks with federally insured deposits from trading securities for their own accounts and from owning hedge funds and private equity funds. The plan, policy makers said on Friday, would effectively require bank holding companies — which Goldman and Morgan became at the height of the financial crisis — to divest themselves of these lucrative operations.

But Treasury Department officials are also seeking to give banks that do not like the proposed rules the option of dropping their status as holding companies to keep their trading and other investment businesses.

The move is likely to turn the spotlight on Goldman, which could be one of the biggest potential beneficiaries because it makes sizable profits from proprietary trading and runs many private equity and hedge funds. Goldman traders are known for taking large trading positions, even as they manage trades for clients.

It is less clear that Morgan Stanley would consider such a step, because it has aggressively raised deposits and reduced trading operations since its big losses during the crisis.

Officials from each bank declined to comment on Friday.

Allowing Goldman, or other institutions, to abandon their bank charters carries risks. Such a plan could create a two-tier system, where Goldman could pursue business activities different from its bailed-out peers like JPMorgan Chase. Goldman would lose access to the Federal Reserve’s overnight lending program, which provides emergency financing. But investors may still assume that the government would bail out Goldman if it had trouble, elevating the risk of moral hazard.

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, said allowing either bank to revert to a securities firm would do little to address the underlying problem. They are so large and interconnected that a collapse would imperil the global financial system, he said.

“You can call them an investment bank, a hedge fund, or a banana, but they are still too big to fail,” Mr. Johnson said.

Andrew Williams, a Treasury spokesman, confirmed that the proposal would allow the banks to reverse their decision to become bank holding companies. But he said the Fed would still closely regulate companies like Goldman because they would still be systemically important.

“There is no escape hatch,” he said. “There is nowhere to hide. Large, interconnected, highly leveraged financial firms must be regulated on a comprehensive, consolidated basis, the same as those for big firms who run banks.”

While bank holding company status is generally permanent, investors have speculated for months that Goldman might seek a way to unshackle itself from some of the additional government regulation that goes with it.

Goldman officials have said privately it would like to shed its holding company status, although they have stated publicly that they do not plan to change the company’s charter. On Thursday, David A. Viniar, the bank’s chief financial officer, said the topic was not under discussion.

“I just think it’s unrealistic,” Mr. Viniar said in a call with reporters. “I think we’re living in a world where basically every major financial institution is going to be regulated by the Fed.”

But Goldman could change its tune if the Treasury created guidelines for banks to shed their holding company status.

The first step for Goldman would be to dispose of its debt, which is backed by the government, or wait until it expires in about two years, the person with knowledge of the plan said.

In addition to the federal bailout, the government agreed that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation would back some bank debt issued when the markets were frozen and banks could not otherwise raise money. Goldman has issued $21 billion of the debt.

The Treasury will include the exit strategy in the legislative proposal it is preparing to send to Congress, Mr. Williams said. Lawmakers could make significant changes to the proposal.

The plan does not now clarify what proprietary trading activities would be limited. Officials said banks would not be permitted to use their own capital for “trading unrelated to serving customers.” They also said that the rules would require banks that own hedge funds and private equity funds to dispose of them over several years.

Mr. Obama called the ban on trading “the Volcker Rule,” in recognition of the former Fed chairman, Paul A. Volcker, who has championed the proposal to prohibit bank holding companies from owning, investing in or sponsoring hedge funds or private equity funds and from engaging in proprietary trading. Big losses by banks in the trading of financial securities helped fuel the credit crisis in 2008.


Three top Wall Street banks to award $49.5 billion in year-end bonuses

By Barry Grey
5 January 2010

The US media has been virtually silent on the colossal year-end bonuses for 2009 that will shortly be handed out by major American banks and financial firms. This is doubtless a deliberate response by the corporate-controlled media to popular anger over the financial gains reaped by Wall Street executives, who have been bailed out at taxpayer expense while working people have been left to face depression levels of unemployment and mounting home foreclosures, hunger and poverty.

A brief article published on the inside pages of the business section of the January 1 New York Times (“With Bigger Bonuses, An Upside for Banks”) notes in passing that the three top Wall Street banks will pay out an estimated $49.5 billion in cash bonuses and stock awards.

Those banks—Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley—received a combined $45 billion in cash under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) passed by Congress in October of 2008. Along with the rest of the banks, they have benefitted from trillions of dollars in nearly interest-free loans, debt guarantees, securities purchases and other subsidies from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board.

The government has further underwritten bank profits and surging bonuses by keeping interest rates at near-zero and pumping trillions of dollars of cheap credit into the financial markets, while placing no restrictions on the ability of the banks to resume the speculative practices that precipitated the financial crash of 2008.

Meanwhile, the American people have lost $11 trillion in wealth, primarily through the collapse of home values. For their part, the banks have sharply curtailed lending over the past 15 months, draining more than $3 trillion of credit from the economy.

In the fall of 2008, the Bush administration, with the support of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, sought to sell the bailout to the public on the grounds that it would enable the banks to resume lending. However, the TARP law imposed no strings on the bailed out banks, allowing them to do with the money what they wanted, without even requiring that they tell the government how they were using their cash windfalls.

The curtailment of lending by the banks has played a major role in deepening and prolonging the recession. Instead of increasing credit to businesses and consumers, the banks have made large—in some cases, record—profits through speculative trading in stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities.

The same article in the Times cites Robert Willens, an accounting and tax analyst in New York, who estimates that US banks will hand out $200 billion in total compensation, a figure that does not take into account the hedge fund industry.

To place this sum in perspective, it is roughly equal to the annual median salary of 4 million American workers.

All of the major banks have been allowed by the Obama administration to repay their TARP cash injections, thereby freeing them from minor restrictions on executive pay imposed on banks that continue to hold TARP money.

According to Willens, the banks will reap $80 billion in tax savings from the $200 billion in compensation, since most employee compensation is a tax deductible expense under existing tax laws. The biggest tax break will go to Goldman Sachs, which expects to award its employees a record $23 billion in bonuses. Goldman will save about $9 billion in federal income taxes on the bonuses it pays out for 2009.

Altogether, Goldman, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley will gain nearly $20 billion in tax breaks from their employee compensation this year.

Indicative of the year-end bonanza for bankers, the Times reported in a separate article on January 1 that Wells Fargo, the fourth largest US bank by assets, which received $25 billion in TARP cash, plans to pay its top four executives a combined $25 million in bonuses. These are to be paid entirely in stock options, rather than cash.

In awarding the bonuses in stock rather than cash, Wells Fargo is following the example of other big banks, including Goldman Sachs. Under prodding from the administration, banks are paying a greater portion of executive compensation in deferred stock, supposedly to tie pay awards to long-term growth rather than short-term gains. However, as the Times points out, “If banks… continue to rebound from the financial crisis, their shares—and the executive payouts—could surge.”

Since the government has made clear that it will impose no genuine reforms or restrictions on the banking industry, and will spend unlimited sums to protect the wealth of the Wall Street elite, the bankers have every reason to believe that stock bonuses will prove more lucrative than cash.

The government’s undiminished commitment to rescuing Wall Street was underscored on Christmas eve, when the Treasury announced that it was removing a $400 billion cap on government aid to the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and approving cash pay packages of $6 million each to the CEOs of the government-controlled firms.

Surging bank profits and bonuses go hand in hand with a dizzying rally on the US stock market. In a year that saw the permanent destruction of millions of jobs, all three major US stock indexes recorded massive increases. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended 2009 up 18.8 percent for the year. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index surged 23.5 percent, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq rose 43.9 percent.

From their lows in early March, the stock indexes recorded even more staggering gains in a “rally many investors had not seen in their lifetime,” according to the January 1 Washington Post. The Dow rose 59 percent, the S&P 500 soared 65 percent and the Nasdaq was up 79 percent.

Financial stocks were up 15 percent for the year, including Bank of America, whose share price quadrupled from its March low. Ford stock increased 532 percent from its low point in March.

In all, the value of US stocks increased by $5.6 trillion from the market’s nadir, the resulting windfall going disproportionately to the wealthiest investors.

A major factor in the stunning rebound in the financial markets was the refusal of the government to impose any serious reforms in the wake of the worst financial crash since the Great Depression. As the Wall Street Journal noted in a year-end review on January 4: “But more than a year after Lehman Brothers, American International Group Inc., Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Washington Mutual collapsed or were saved by the government and financial markets swooned, it is striking how little on Wall Street has changed.”

The scale and character of the government bailout was summed up aptly by Simon Johnson, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, in a review of recent books on the financial crash. Writing in the December 27 Washington Post, Johnson said, “The Wall Street executives kept their jobs, their bonuses and their pensions; they benefitted from unprecedented rule changes and unlimited monetary and fiscal support; and their firms became even bigger and more dangerous to the economic health of society…

“The executives of our largest banks ran their firms into the ground, taking excessive risks that even now they fail to understand fully. But, as these individuals saw it, unless they personally were saved on incredibly generous terms, the world’s economy would grind to a halt.”

The Obama administration and the Democrats, no less than Bush and the Republicans, agreed that their chief mission was to rescue the personal fortunes of these executives and the financial oligarchy they represent.





Records show that four out of Obama's top five contributors are employees of financial industry giants - Goldman Sachs ($571,330), UBS AG ($364,806), JPMorgan Chase ($362,207) and Citigroup ($358,054).





July 1st 2008

Wall Street firms have chipped in more than $9 million to Barack Obama. Zurga/Bloomberg

Wall Street is investing heavily in Barack Obama.

Although the Democratic presidential hopeful has vowed to raise capital gains and corporate taxes, financial industry bigs have contributed almost twice as much to Obama as to GOP rival John McCain, a Daily News analysis of campaign records shows.

"Wall Street wants change and wants a curtailment in spending. It wants someone who focuses on the domestic economy," said Jim Cramer, the boisterous host of CNBC's "Mad Money."

Cramer also does not discount nostalgia for the go-go 1990s, when Bill Clinton led the largest economic expansion in history.

"It wants a Clinton like in 1992, but not a Hillary Clinton," he said. "That's Barack Obama."

For both candidates, Wall Street's investment and banking sectors have become among their portliest cash cows, contributing $9.5 million to Obama and $5.3 million to McCain so far.

It's a haul that is already raising concerns that, as the nation's faltering economy has become issue No. 1, the two candidates may have a hard time playing tough on issues like market regulation or corporate-tax loopholes.

"No matter who wins in November, Wall Street will have a friend in the White House," said Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics, which crunched the data for The News.

Wall Street's generosity toward Obama, in particular, would seem to run counter to its self-interests.

In addition to calling for corporate and capital gains tax hikes, Obama has proposed raising income taxes on those earning more than $250,000.

But Wall Street is often motivated by something more than money - winning.

"In general, these are professional prognosticators," said Ritsch. "And they may be putting their money on the person they predict will win, not the candidate they hope will win."

Records show that four out of Obama's top five contributors are employees of financial industry giants - Goldman Sachs ($571,330), UBS AG ($364,806), JPMorgan Chase ($362,207) and Citigroup ($358,054).

McCain's top five include Wall Street's Merrill Lynch ($230,310) and Citigroup ($219,551).

Obama's Wall Street haul is not the biggest ever. That distinction belongs to President Bush, who as an incumbent in 2004 raised $10,852,696 from Wall Street interests through April that year - about $1 million more than Obama.

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