Tuesday, July 31, 2012





Host, 'Take Action News with David Shuster'; anchor and correspondent for Current TV

Yes -- Protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Is a Political Winner


As Republicans target America's social safety net, a top Democrat is now urging colleagues to join the fight, describing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as "winners."

Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Co-Chair of the House Task Force on Seniors, spoke with reporters today to mark the 47th anniversary of Medicare. She said, "If everybody took a deep breath and looked at the reality of how this is going to help them and their families, this is a great issue for us to campaign on."

Schakowsky is spot on. And it's refreshing to see at least some Democrats paying attention to the intriguing special election results last month in Arizona. Democrat Ron Barber focused hard on protecting social programs and easily fended off a strong Republican challenge in the swing district previously represented by Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

The backbone emerging in the Democratic Party comes at an important time. It was 47 years ago this week when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. The legislation represented a monumental leap forward in how Americans treated one another. At the time, half of seniors did not have any health insurance. And those seniors who did have insurance paid three times what younger people paid for their care despite having, on average, just half as much income.

This week, in honor of Medicare's birthday, a coalition of 300 national and state organizations known as the Strengthen Social Security campaign announced the release of a new series of reports, "Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid Work for America." The reports show the clear value and benefits these programs provide in every state, as well as the raw numbers and demographics of people whose lives have literally been saved thanks to America's social safety net.

Thankfully, the "Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid Work for America" reports aren't getting overlooked. The data are being released in over a dozen states where seniors' groups, such as the Alliance for Retired Americans, have events planned in honor of Medicare's birthday, including in the election battlegrounds of Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Reports for the remainder of the 50 states and the District of Columbia will be released on or before Social Security's 77th birthday on Aug. 14. "These are issues that should be front and center in Democratic campaigns," said Schakowsky. "Republicans want to weaken or end all three programs.

Schakowsky insists that running as defenders of Medicare and Social Security does not contradict the politically popular message of fiscal responsibility. "Social Security ... everyone acknowledges has absolutely nothing to do with the deficit," she noted.

On Medicare, Schakowsky urged Democrats to tout the cost-saving Medicare reforms in the Affordable Care Act as evidence of fiscal responsibility that also improves the quality of and access to health care. "We made many improvements in Medicare that are going to save lots of money, something the Republicans do not want to acknowledge," she said. "This is a golden moment for people to take another look at the new health care proposals that are done under the Affordable Care Act." Indeed, the ACA makes prescription drugs more affordable for seniors and allows preventative care without co-pays, just one of the many crucial improvements that will also save the system money.

And yet, many Democrats are still convinced that electoral success requires a "grand bargain" with Republicans on social programs, such as the "Simpson-Bowles" plan. I don't think it's an election winner to embrace cutting Social Security benefits for today's young and middle-aged Americans by 19 percent, as Simpson-Bowles would do, according to estimates by the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration. And never mind the cuts to younger Americans -- the plan would also cut the Social Security COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) for current beneficiaries through the adoption of the chained CPI (consumer price index).

Congresswoman Schakowsky was a member of the Simpson-Bowles Commission and voted against the co-chairs' plan. She knows that it would be bad policy to cut Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, and even worse politics. Democrats should follow her lead: Instead of running away from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, they should run toward the programs and vow to protect them. It's an approach that will win in November and strengthen our society.

Ex-TARP overseer denounces US government cover-up of Wall Street crimes

31 July 2012

In interviews prompted by the publication of his new book (Bailout) on the $700 billion US bank bailout scheme—the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)—the former special inspector general for the program, Neil Barofsky, has denounced bank regulators and top officials in the Bush and Obama administrations for covering up Wall Street criminality both before and after the financial crash of September 2008.

In an interview last Thursday with the Daily Ticker blog, Barofsky accused Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner of facilitating the banks’ manipulation of Libor, the global benchmark interest rate, when he was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2007-2008, prior to his joining the Obama administration. Recently published documents show that as early as 2007, Geithner knew that London-based Barclays Bank was submitting false information to the Libor board to conceal its financial weakness.

Geithner merely wrote to the Bank of England suggesting certain changes in the Libor rate-setting mechanism, but made no public statement and failed to notify regulators at the US Justice Department, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, even though major US banks were alleged to be involved in the rate-rigging fraud.

In his interview, Barofsky rejected Geithner’s claims to have acted appropriately. Calling the Libor scandal a “global conspiracy to fix one of the most important interest rates in the world,” the former TARP inspector general said, “[Geithner] heard this information and looked the other way. Geithner and other regulators should be held accountable, they should be fired across the board. If they knew about an ongoing fraud, and they didn’t do anything about it, they don’t deserve to have their jobs. I hope to see people in handcuffs.”

In the same interview and others given over the past week, Barofsky has spoken in scathing terms of the domination of Washington by Wall Street and the subservience of both major parties to the financial elite. “It was shocking,” he told the Daily Ticker, “how much control the big banks had over their own bailout and how they often would dictate terms of some of the TARP programs and the overwhelming deference shown by Treasury officials to the banks. I saw no differences in these core issues between the Bush and Obama administrations.”

In an interview with CBS News’ Charlie Rose on July 23, Barofsky referred to key elements of his account of TARP, including the lack of any restrictions on the banks’ use of bailout funds and the fact that they were not even required to tell the government what they were doing with the taxpayer money that had been handed to them.

“When I got to Washington,” he said, “I saw that it had been hijacked by a small group of very powerful Wall Street banks... It’s not Democratic, it’s not Republican, it’s across political barriers… [Geithner] oversaw a policy that saw our largest banks, the too-big-to-fail institutions, get bigger than ever and more powerful, more politically connected.”

In his book, Barofsky derides the cynicism of the claims made when President Bush, candidate Obama and congressional leaders of both parties were seeking to ram through the TARP law over massive popular opposition that the bailout would benefit Main Street as well as Wall Street. He notes, for instance, that the government’s mortgage modification program—billed as a means to help millions of homeowners—has disbursed only $3 billion out of the $50 billion set aside for it.

Barofsky, who served as the Treasury Department’s special inspector general for TARP until his resignation last February, is well placed to document the collusion of the government with the banks. He issued numerous reports while in his TARP post exposing the lack of any real government oversight over the taxpayer money funneled to the banks, as well as decisions ensuring that Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs recouped tens of billions of dollars in potential losses at the public’s expense.

Deprived of any enforcement powers under the TARP law drafted by Wall Street lawyers and ratified by Congress, Barofsky was simply ignored by Geithner and the Obama administration and his reports were largely buried by the media.

Barofsky’s book has received a similar response from the media, as did reports issued last year by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations documenting in detail fraudulent and illegal activities by the banks in the lead-up to the financial crash of 2008.

Four years after the crisis precipitated by the banks, not a single top banker has been prosecuted, let alone convicted. Meanwhile, the same bankers, and the government officials who shielded them and ensured that they grew even richer, are demanding that American workers accept the “new normal” of wages at $13 or less, along with the destruction of pensions, health care and working conditions.

For all of his exposures, Barofsky, a Democrat, fails to draw the requisite conclusions, suggesting that popular rage can “sow the seeds for the types of reform that will one day break our system free from the corrupting grasp of the megabucks.”

The criminality of the financial system and the complicity of all of the official institutions are not, however, mere aberrations or blemishes on an otherwise healthy system. They are expressions of the putrefaction and failure of the capitalist system itself. Its mortal crisis is reflected above all in the ever-greater scale of social inequality.

There is no way to break the power of the financial oligarchy outside of a mass working class movement armed with a socialist program, including the seizure of the ill-gotten wealth of the financial mafia and the nationalization of the banks and major corporations under the democratic control of the working population.

Andre Damon and Barry Grey

The authors also recommend:




Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America [Hardcover]


Book Description

Publication Date: May 22, 2012

Charles H. Ferguson, who electrified the world with his Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job, now explains how a predator elite took over the country, step by step, and he exposes the networks of academic, financial, and political influence, in all recent administrations, that prepared the predators’ path to conquest.
Over the last several decades, the United States has undergone one of the most radical social and economic transformations in its history.

· Finance has become America’s dominant industry, while manufacturing, even for high technology industries, has nearly disappeared.

· The financial sector has become increasingly criminalized, with the widespread fraud that caused the housing bubble going completely unpunished.

· Federal tax collections as a share of GDP are at their lowest level in sixty years, with the wealthy and highly profitable corporations enjoying the greatest tax reductions.

· Most shockingly, the United States, so long the beacon of opportunity for the ambitious poor, has become one of the world’s most unequal and unfair societies.

If you’re smart and a hard worker, but your parents aren’t rich, you’re now better off being born in Munich, Germany or in Singapore than in Cleveland, Ohio or New York.
This radical shift did not happen by accident.

Ferguson shows how, since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, both major political parties have become captives of the moneyed elite. It was the Clinton administration that dismantled the regulatory controls that protected the average citizen from avaricious financiers. It was the Bush team that destroyed the federal revenue base with its grotesquely skewed tax cuts for the rich. And it is the Obama White House that has allowed financial criminals to continue to operate unchecked, even after supposed “reforms” installed after the collapse of 2008.

Predator Nation reveals how once-revered figures like Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers became mere courtiers to the elite. Based on many newly released court filings, it details the extent of the crimes—there is no other word—committed in the frenzied chase for wealth that caused the financial crisis. And, finally, it lays out a plan of action for how we might take back our country and the American dream.

Guest Reviewer: Simon Johnson on Predator Nation by Charles H. Ferguson

Simon Johnson is coauthor of 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown and White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters To You.

Predator Nation demolishes the view that the global financial crisis was merely some sort of freak accident. Charles Ferguson makes a convincing case that the world’s banking system was brought to the brink of complete collapse in 2008–09 by a virulent combination of unchecked greed and criminal behavior.

This is an epic crime story with an apparently clean getaway, courtesy of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Both presidents proved unwilling to hold anyone to account—or even to launch meaningful investigations.

Leading bankers walked away with billions of dollars in unjustified compensation. The costs imposed on the rest of us can be measured in the trillions of dollars.

Predator Nation provides a roadmap for prosecution, systematically covering the banks involved, the names of culpable executives, the obvious crimes, the precise laws broken, and the evidence hiding in plain sight. No doubt it will be widely ignored by our legal officials.

Ferguson’s points are also intensely political. Reckless behavior by bankers can be traced back to the bipartisan consensus around deregulating finance in recent decades. This result is a socially destructive industry with immense political power—and capable of defeating all attempts at meaningful reform. The continued predominance of rogue finance is greatly facilitated by its effective corruption of American academia and many so-called “independent experts” (documented in Charles Ferguson’s Oscar-winning movie, Inside Job.)

Big banks hold American politics in a death grip. To understand this—and to start to think about how to break this grip—read Predator Nation and give a copy to everyone you know.




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).


“Barack Obama's favorite banker faces losses of $2 billion and possibly more -- all because of the complex, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't trading in exotic financial instruments that he has so ardently lobbied Congress not to regulate.”

Is JPMorgan's Loss a Canary in a Coal Mine?

Posted: 05/16/2012 4:49 pm

That sound of shattered glass you've been hearing is the iconic portrait of Jamie Dimon splintering as it hits the floor of JPMorgan Chase. As the Good Book says, "Pride goeth before a fall," and the sleek, silver-haired, too-smart-for-his-own-good CEO of America's largest bank has been turning every television show within reach into a confessional booth. Barack Obama's favorite banker faces losses of $2 billion and possibly more -- all because of the complex, now-you-see-it-now-you-don't trading in exotic financial instruments that he has so ardently lobbied Congress not to regulate.

Once again, doing God's work -- that is, betting huge sums of money with depositor funds knowing that you are too big to fail and can count on taxpayers riding to your rescue if your avarice threatens to take the country down -- has lost some of its luster. The jewels in Dimon's crown sparkle with a little less grandiosity than a few days ago, when he ridiculed Paul Volcker's ideas for keeping Wall Street honest as "infantile."

To find out more about what this all means, I turned to Simon Johnson, once chief economist of the International Monetary Fund and now a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He and his colleague James Kwak founded the now-indispensable website baselinescenario.com. They co-authored the bestselling book 13 Bankers and a most recent book, White House Burning, an account every citizen should read to understand how the national deficit affects our future.

Bill Moyers: If Chase began to collapse because of risky betting, would the government be forced to step in again?

Simon Johnson: Absolutely, Bill. JPMorgan Chase is too big to fail. Hopefully in the future we can move away from this system, but right now it is too big. It's about a $2.5 trillion dollar bank in terms of total assets. That's roughly 20 percent of the U.S. economy, comparing their assets to our GDP. That's huge. If that bank were to collapse -- I'm not saying it will -- but if it were to collapse, it would be a shock to the economy bigger than that of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and as a result, they would be protected by the Federal Reserve. They are exactly what's known as too big to fail.

Moyers: I was just looking at an interview I did with you in February of 2009, soon after the collapse of 2008 and you said, and I'm quoting, "The signs that I see... the body language, the words, the op-eds, the testimony, the way these bankers are treated by certain congressional committees, it makes me feel very worried. I have a feeling in my stomach that is what I had in other countries, much poorer countries, countries that were headed into really difficult economic situations. When there's a small group of people who got you into a disaster and who are still powerful, you know you need to come in and break that power and you can't. You're stuck." How do you feel about that insight now?

Johnson: I'm still nervous, and I think that the losses that JPMorgan reported -- that CEO Jamie Dimon reported -- and the way in which they're presented, the fact that they're surprised by it and the fact that they didn't know they were taking these kinds of risks, the fact that they lost so much money in a relatively benign moment compared to what we've seen in the past and what we're likely to see in the future -- all of this suggests that we are absolutely on the path towards another financial crisis of the same order of magnitude as the last one.

Moyers: Should Jamie Dimon resign? I ask that because as you know and as we've discussed, Chase and other huge banks have been using their enormous wealth for years to, in effect, buy off our politicians and regulators. Chase just had to pay up almost three quarters of a billion dollars in settlements and surrendered fees to settle one case alone, that of bribery and corruption in Jefferson County, Alabama. It's also paid out billions of dollars to settle other cases of perjury, forgery, fraud and sale of unregistered securities. And these charges were for actions that took place while Mr. Dimon was the CEO. Should he resign?

Johnson: I think, Bill, there should be an independent investigation into how JPMorgan operates both with regard to these losses and with regard to all of the problems that you just identified. This investigation should be conducted separate from the board of directors. Remember that the shareholders and the board of directors absolutely have an incentive to keep JPMorgan Chase as a too-big-to-fail bank. But because it is that kind of bank, its downside risk is taken by the Federal Reserve, by the taxpayer, by the broader economy and all citizens. We need to have an independent, detailed, specific investigation to establish who knew what when and what kind of wrongdoing management was engaged in. On the basis of that, we'll see what we'll see and who should have to resign.

Moyers: Dimon is also on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which, as everyone knows is supposed to regulate JPMorgan. What in the world are bankers doing on the Fed board, regulating themselves?

Johnson: This is a terrible situation, Bill. It goes back to the origins, the political compromise at the very beginning of the Federal Reserve system about a hundred years ago. The bankers were very powerful back then, also, and they got a Federal Reserve system in which they had a lot of representation. Some of that has eroded over time because of previous abuses, but you're absolutely right, the prominent bankers, including most notably, Jamie Dimon, are members of the board of the New York Federal Reserve, a key element in the Federal Reserve system. And he should, under these circumstances, absolutely step down from that role. It's completely inappropriate to have such a big bank represented in this fashion. The New York Fed claims there's no impropriety, there's no wrong doing and he doesn't involve himself in supervision and so on and so forth. Perhaps, but why does Mr. Dimon, a very busy man, take time out of his day to be on the board of the New York fed? He is getting something from this. It's a trade, just like everything else on Wall Street.

Moyers: He dismissed criticism of his dual role yesterday by downplaying the role of the Fed board. He said it's more like an "advisory group than anything else." I had to check my hearing aid to see if I'd heard that correctly.

Johnson: Well, I think he is advising them on lots of things. He also, of course, meets with some regularity with top Treasury officials, and some reports say that he meets with President Obama with some regularity. The political access and connections of Mr. Dimon are second to none. One of his senior executives was until recently chief of staff in the White House, if you can believe that. I really think this has gone far enough. Under these kinds of circumstances with this amount of loss of control over risk management, what we need to have is Mr. Dimon step down from the New York Federal Reserve Board.

Moyers: He told shareholders at their annual meeting Tuesday -- they were meeting in Tampa, Florida -- that these were "self-inflicted mistakes" that "should never have happened." Does that seem reasonable to you?

Johnson: Well, it's all very odd, Bill, and I've talked to as many experts as I can find who are at all informed about what JPMorgan was doing and how they were doing it and nobody really understands the true picture. That's why we need an independent investigation to establish -- was this an isolated incident or, more likely, the breakdown of a system of controlling and managing risks. Keep in mind that JPMorgan is widely regarded to be the best in the business at risk management, as it is called on Wall Street. And if they can't do this in a relatively benign moment when things are not so very bad around the world, what is going to happen to them and to other banks when something really dramatic happens, for example, in Europe in the eurozone?

Moyers: Some of his supporters are claiming that only the bank has lost on this and that there's absolutely no chance that the loss could have threatened the stability of the banking system as happened in 2008. What do you say again to that?

Johnson: I say this is the canary in the coal mine. This tells you that something is fundamentally wrong with the way banks measure, manage and control their risks. They don't have enough equity funding in their business. They like to have a little bit of equity and a lot of debt. They get paid based on return on equity, unadjusted for risk. If things go well, they get the upside. If things go badly, the downside is someone else's problem. And that someone else is you and me, Bill. It goes to the Federal Reserve, but not only, it goes to the Treasury, it goes to the debt.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the increase in debt relative to GDP due to the last crisis will end up being 50 percent of GDP, call that $7 trillion dollars, $7.5 trillion dollars in today's money. That's extraordinary. It's an enormous shock to our fiscal accounts and to our ability to pay pensions and keep the healthcare system running in the future. For what? What did we get from that? Absolutely nothing. The bankers got some billions in extra pay, we get trillions in extra debt. It's unfair, it's inefficient, it's unconscionable, and it needs to stop.

Moyers: Wasn't part of the risk that Dimon took with taxpayer guaranteed deposits? I mean, if I had money at JPMorgan Chase, wouldn't some of my money have been used to take this risk?

Johnson: Again, we don't know the exact details, but news reports do suggest that yes, they were gambling with federally insured deposits, which just really puts the icing on the cake here.

Moyers: Do we know yet what is Dimon's culpability? Is it conceivable to you that a risk this big would have been incurred without his approval?

Johnson: It seems very strange and quite a stretch. And he did tell investors, when he reported on first quarter earnings in April, that he was aware of the situation, aware of the trade -- he called it a "tempest in a teacup," and, therefore, not something to worry about.

Moyers: He's been Wall Street's point man in their campaign against tighter regulation of derivatives and proprietary trading. Were derivatives at the heart of this gamble?

Johnson: Yes, according to reliable reports, this was a so-called "hedging" strategy that turned out to be no more than a gamble, but the people involved perhaps didn't understand that or maybe they understood it and covered it up. It was absolutely about a bet on extremely complex derivatives and the interesting question is who failed to understand exactly what they were getting into. And how did Jamie Dimon, who has a reputation that he burnishes more than anybody else for being the number one expert risk manager in the world -- how did he miss this one?

Moyers:I've been reading a lot of stories today about members of the House, Republicans in particular, saying this doesn't change their opinion at all that we've got to still diminish regulation. What do you think about that?

Johnson: I think that it is a recipe for disaster. Look, deregulating or not regulating during the boom is exactly how you get into bailouts in the bust. The goal should be to make all the banks small enough and simple enough to fail. End the government subsidies here. And when I talk to people on the intellectual right, Bill, they get this, as do people on the intellectual left. The problem is, the political right largely doesn't want to go there because of the donations. I'm afraid some people, not all, but some people on the political left don't want to go there either.

Moyers: The Washington Post reported that the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into JPMorgan's trading loss. Have you spotted -- and I know this is sensitive -- but have you spotted anything in the story so far that suggests the possibility of criminality? Dodd-Frank is not in existence yet, so where would any possibility of criminality come from?

Johnson: Well Dodd-Frank is in existence but the rules have not been written and therefore not implemented. So yes, it is hard to violate those rules in their current state. And many of those rules, by the way, violation would be a civil penalty, not a criminal penalty. If you violate a securities law -- if you've mislead investors, if there was material adverse information that was not disclosed in an appropriate and timely manner -- that's a very serious offence traditionally.

I have to say that the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have not been very good at enforcing securities law in recent years, including and specifically since the financial crisis. I am skeptical that this will change. But if they have an investigation that reveals all of the details of what happened and how it happened, that would be extremely informative and show us, I believe, that the risk management approach and attitudes on Wall Street are deeply flawed and leading us towards a big crisis.

Moyers: So what are people to do, Simon? What can people do now in response to this?

Johnson: Well, I think you have to look for politicians who are proposing solutions, and look on the right and on the left. I see Elizabeth Warren, running for the Senate in Massachusetts, who is saying we should bring back Glass-Steagall to separate commercial banking from investment banking. I see Tom Hoenig, who is not a politician, he's a regulator, he's the former president of the Kansas City Fed, and he's now one of the top two people at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the FDIC. He is saying that big banks should no longer have trading desks. That's the same sort of idea that Elizabeth Warren is expressing. We need a lot more people to focus on this and to make this an issue for the elections.

And I would say in this context, Bill, it's very important not to be distracted. I understand for example, Speaker Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, is proposing to have another conflict over the debt ceiling in the near future. This is the politics of distraction. This is refusing to recognize that a huge part of our fiscal problems today and in the future are due to these risks within the financial system that are allowed because the people running the biggest banks hand out massive campaign contributions across the political spectrum.

Moyers: Are you saying that this financial crisis, so-called, is at heart a political crisis?

Johnson: Yes, exactly. I think that a few people, particularly in and around the financial system, have become too powerful. They were allowed to take a lot of risk, and they did massive damage to the economy -- more than eight million jobs lost. We're still struggling to get back anywhere close to employment levels where we were before 2008. And they've done massive damage to the budget. This damage to the budget is long lasting; it undermines the budget when we need it to be stronger because the society is aging. We need to support Social Security and support Medicare on a fair basis. We need to restore and rebuild revenue, revenue that was absolutely devastated by the financial crisis. People need to understand the link between what the banks did and the budget. And too many people fail to do that. "Oh, it's too complicated. I don't want to understand the details, I don't want to spend time with it." That's a mistake, a very big mistake. You're playing into the hands of a few powerful people in the society who want private benefit and social loss.

Watch Moyers & Company weekly on public television. See more web-only features like this at BillMoyers.com


Why hasn’t Obama been impeached? His violations of our borders laws, inducing illegals to vote, sabotage of jobs for Americans, connections to criminal banksters…. WHAT DOES IT TAKE?



For much of Obama’s tenure, Jamie Dimon was known as the White House’s “favorite banker.” According to White House logs, Dimon visited the White House at least 18 times, often to talk to his former subordinate at JPMorgan, William Daley, who had been named White House chief of staff by Obama after the Democratic rout in the 2010 elections.


The JPMorgan scandal also throws into relief the government’s failure to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown. Despite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing and criminality uncovered by two federal investigations last year, those responsible have been shielded from prosecution.

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).

The JPMorgan debacle

15 May 2012

The economic and political fallout from JPMorgan Chase’s sudden announcement last Thursday night that it lost more than $2 billion from speculative bets on credit derivatives continued to grow on Monday. The biggest US bank announced the forced retirement of Ina Drew, who headed up the bank’s London-based Chief Investment Office, which placed huge bets on the creditworthiness of a collection of US corporations. Other top executives and traders are expected to be sacked or demoted.

The bank’s shares fell another 3.2 percent, bringing its two-day market capitalization loss to nearly $19 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan was prepared for a total loss of more than $4 billion over the next year from its soured stake in credit default swaps—the same investment vehicle that played a central role in the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the government bailout of insurance giant American International Group (AIG) in September of 2008.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon sought to present the loss as an innocent mistake, resulting from “errors, sloppiness and bad judgment.” Only a month ago, Dimon, who has led the public campaign by Wall Street against even the mildest restrictions on speculative banking practices, dismissed warnings over the massive bets being made by his Chief Investment Office as “a complete tempest in a teapot.”

The scale of the loss and the denials that preceded it raise the likelihood that banking rules and laws against investor fraud and deception were breached.

President Obama, however, rushed to the defense of JPMorgan and Dimon, declaring on a daytime television talk show Monday that JPMorgan was “one of the best managed banks there is” and Dimon was “one of the smartest bankers we got.” At the same time he cited the bank’s loss as a vindication of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill that he signed into law in July of 2010. “This is why we passed Wall Street reform,” he said.

In fact, the JPMorgan debacle demonstrates that nearly four years after the Wall Street crash nothing has changed for the financial aristocracy. No measures have been taken to rein in the banks, which received trillions of dollars in government handouts, guarantees and cheap loans. The same forms of speculation and outright swindling that led to the financial meltdown and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression continue unabated.

The big banks, such as JPMorgan, have increased their stranglehold over the US economy. They have recorded bumper profits by withholding credit from consumers and small businesses, keeping unemployment high, while speculating on credit default swaps and other exotic financial instruments that drain resources from the real economy. On this basis, bank executives and traders, including those at bailed-out institutions, have continued to rake in eight-figure compensation packages. Last year, Ina Drew made $14 million, and Jamie Dimon took in $26 million.

The Dodd-Frank law trumpeted by Obama is a fraud, an attempt to give the appearance of financial reform while enabling the banks to continue their parasitic and criminal activities. A case in point is the so-called Volcker Rule, named after the former chairman of the Federal Reserve and economic adviser to the Obama White House, Paul Volcker.

The rule, incorporated into the Dodd-Frank Act and supposedly one of its most daring provisions, ostensibly bars proprietary trading—speculation by a bank on its own account—by commercial banks whose consumer deposits are guaranteed by the federal government. The idea is to prevent government-insured banks from speculating with depositors’ money.

But the regulation as drafted by federal regulators—under pressure from the Federal Reserve and Obama’s treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, as well as the banks—would actually allow the type of speculative bet made by JPMorgan in the guise of a “hedge” to offset risk in the bank’s overall investment portfolio.

The Volcker Rule, whose precise form is yet to be announced, will do nothing to halt speculation by government-backed banks using small depositors’ money.

The JPMorgan scandal also throws into relief the government’s failure to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown. Despite overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing and criminality uncovered by two federal investigations last year, those responsible have been shielded from prosecution.

When Iowa Senator Charles Grassley submitted a letter to the Justice Department earlier this year asking how many bank executives had been prosecuted in response to the financial crisis, the Justice Department replied it did not know because it was not keeping a list.

According to a study by Syracuse University, however, federal financial fraud prosecutions have fallen to 20-year lows under the Obama administration, and are down 39 percent since 2003. Under Obama, the number of financial fraud cases has fallen to one-third the level of the Clinton administration.

These facts demonstrate the de facto dictatorship exercised by the financial aristocracy over the entire political system and both major parties. The Obama administration, in particular, is an instrument of the most powerful financial institutions. It has focused its efforts on protecting and increasing the wealth of the privileged elite while utilizing the crisis to permanently slash the wages and living standards of the working class.

For much of Obama’s tenure, Jamie Dimon was known as the White House’s “favorite banker.” According to White House logs, Dimon visited the White House at least 18 times, often to talk to his former subordinate at JPMorgan, William Daley, who had been named White House chief of staff by Obama after the Democratic rout in the 2010 elections.

The incestuous and corrupt relations between Wall Street, the Obama administration and the entire political system underscore the necessity for the working class to build its own mass socialist movement to fight for its interests in opposition to the ruling elite.

The bankers responsible for the financial crisis, including Dimon and his co-conspirators, must be held criminally liable for their lawlessness and held accountable for the social suffering that has resulted from their actions. The ill-gotten trillions accumulated by the banks must be expropriated, with full protection for small depositors and small businesses, and used to provide decent jobs, housing, health care and education for all.

There is no way to rein in the banks and end their socially destructive activities within the framework of the capitalist system. The only way to stop the fraud and parasitism that go on every day on Wall Street is to nationalize the banks and run them as democratically controlled public utilities.

Andre Damon and Barry Grey



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: JPMorgan Is 'One of the Best-Managed Banks'

By Mary Bruce | ABC OTUS News – 2 hrs 31 mins ago

Obama: JPMorgan Is 'One of the …

Lou Rocco / ABC News

Just hours after a top JPMorgan Chase executive retired in the wake of a stunning $2 billion trading loss, President Obama told the hosts of ABC's "The View" that the bank's risky bets exemplified the need for Wall Street reform.

"JPMorgan is one of the best managed banks there is. Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got and they still lost $2 billion and counting," the president said. "We don't know all the details. It's going to be investigated, but this is why we passed Wall Street reform."

The full interview airs on "The View" Tuesday on ABC at 11 a.m. ET

While a powerhouse like JPMorgan might be able to weather an error that the bank's own CEO called "egregious," the president questioned what might happen to smaller institutions in similar situations.

"This is one of the best managed banks. You could have a bank that isn't as strong, isn't as profitable managing those same bets and we might have had to step in," he said. "That's why Wall Street reform is so important."

While touting his efforts to rein in the Wall Street behavior that led to the massive taxpayer bailout of the banks following the financial crisis, he noted his administration is still fighting for tough reform.

Pivoting to November, the president said Wall Street reform is one of the many critical areas where he and his Republican challenger, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, have a different vision for the future.

The president's full interview airs Tuesday on "The View." Tune into "World News with Diane Sawyer" tonight for more.


Nicole Gelinas
It’s Not About Jamie Dimon
We should look to markets, not men, to govern the economy.
14 May 2012

On Meet the Press yesterday, JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon epitomized what’s wrong with America’s approach to the financial crisis. The American media and political elite remain obsessed with personalities, looking for heroes and villains instead of focusing on what we really need: the dispassionate rule of law that would allow free markets to flourish. Meet the Press is for politicians, and Dimon performed like a model one. He spoke in short sentences and apologized directly: “I was dead wrong,” he offered, for having made a “terrible, egregious mistake.” Specifically, last Thursday, JPMorgan announced a $2 billion trading loss on a derivatives bet.

Theoretically, anyway, such a loss should be a matter between the bank and investors, not TV fodder. Yet Dimon’s business—too-big-to-fail banking—is no ordinary business. Washington’s willingness to subsidize failure means that Dimon’s job is as much political risk management as financial risk management. Because JPMorgan depends on Uncle Sam’s backing, one of Dimon’s key constituencies is politicians and government regulators. And one way to charm regulators—and the voters who elect the politicians—is through a killer interview.

In October 2008, the Bush administration, not normally a fan of government expropriation, forced nine big banks, including Dimon’s, to accept $125 billion in TARP money. The banks were deemed so important that they had to take the money to protect them against failure, whether they wanted it or not. Since then, the banks and the government have stayed bound together. President Obama’s Dodd-Frank financial reform law, enacted two summers ago, has tied the two sides closer still. The problems that led to the financial crisis, remember, included investors’ perception—honed over two decades of smaller-scale bailouts—that big banks were too big to fail. Dodd-Frank has given such banks an official title: “systemically important financial institutions.”

Another problem that led to the financial crisis was that, over the years, politicians and regulators determined that banks had become so good at risk management that they no longer needed to abide by consistent rules—fixed limits on borrowing, for example, so that banks could fail without leaving behind so much unpaid debt that they endangered the economy. Instead, banks could largely do what their executives wanted, as long as regulators believed, on a case-by-case basis, that they knew what they were doing.

In the aftermath of the JPMorgan mess, politicians and reporters have been invoking the Dodd-Frank law’s “Volcker Rule.” Named after Paul Volcker, the Federal Reserve chairman from the Carter and Reagan eras, the rule prohibits banks whose customers benefit from taxpayer-backed deposit insurance from engaging in “proprietary trading,” or speculation. But the Volcker Rule isn’t a rule at all: it prohibits behavior that has no set definition. Twenty-two months after Dodd-Frank became law, regulators have delayed enforcing the rule because they still cannot figure out what proprietary trading really is. Consider how JPMorgan lost all that money: creating derivatives that let it sell billions of dollars’ worth of protection against the risk that some corporate securities would default. That sure doesn’t sound like a good idea. Banks, because they’re lenders, are already at risk if people and companies default in droves.

But does selling such synthetic “insurance” constitute proprietary trading? Michigan Senator Carl Levin, who helped draft the Volcker Rule language, says it does. Bank officials have argued that such behavior is hedging, which would be okay under Dodd-Frank.

Real rules could govern Wall Street, but politicians must give regulators the backing to create and enforce them. Rather than worry about the Volcker Rule, politicians and reporters should be focusing on derivatives rules. One reason that Washington had to bail out the financial system four years ago was that financial firms such as AIG had taken on virtually infinite risk through the derivatives markets. Through derivatives, AIG could “sell” protection against other companies’ defaults with almost no cash down. Lo and behold, that’s what JPMorgan Chase was doing, too. Regulators should demand that traders—whether big banks or tiny hedge funds—put a set amount of cash down behind such bets, curtailing the amount of potential unpaid debt in the financial system. Regulators should also require that traders execute such transactions on open clearinghouses and exchanges—so that markets can determine which bets are going well and which aren’t, and clearinghouses can demand more money from traders to cover their losses. Such rules empower market signals, not regulatory micromanagement, to control risk. If such rules were in place, it’s unlikely Dimon would have visited the White House 18 times in three years, as he would have had no way to manipulate a restriction that, after all, applied to everyone.

The best way to stop bailouts is to limit borrowing and demand transparency. When markets know that financial firms have put a cash cushion behind their bets—and where the risk behind such bets lies—they’re unlikely to pull their money out of the financial system en masse, necessitating a government rescue. The Volcker Rule, by contrast, adds no such protection against future taxpayer rescues; all it does is unleash regulators to debate, in private, the definitions of risk.

Dodd-Frank gave regulators the authority to impose real rules on derivatives, and the regulators have done so. But lobbyists demanded and secured exceptions, which could eventually prove the rule. With such loophole-ridden reform, America has hardly set a good example for Europe, which lags even further behind in enacting derivatives rules. In fact, JPMorgan Chase may have executed the derivatives deals from London because the bank perceived London as a looser environment. Moving this activity around the world so that financiers can play inconsistent rules against one another does nothing to help the struggling Western economies.

The media and the politicians, however, would rather discuss people than arcane issues like financial rules. Look at how politely—almost obsequiously—NBC’s David Gregory treated Dimon. Gregory asked Dimon: “Here you are, Jamie Dimon, you’ve got a sterling reputation. . . . How does a guy like you make this mistake? If this happened at JPMorgan Chase . . . what about all the other banks out there? If somebody else made a mistake like this, would we be again talking about too big to fail and taxpayer bailouts?” Then, when asking delicate questions about potential criminal liability, Gregory unconsciously switched from “you” to “the bank.” Lowly regulators will hardly be more willing to take on Dimon and his colleagues.

Focusing on one man represents bailout thinking. Policymakers continue to be distracted from the rules needed to protect the economy from the consequences—including corporate failure—of the bad decisions that individuals can make. Nearly four years after the financial crisis began, Washington seems to have learned almost nothing.





"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."

Shaping up to be the most corrupt
administration in American history:

  • Obama’s team: Not the “best of the Washington insiders,” as the liberal media style them, but rather, a dysfunctional and dangerous conglomerate of business-as-usual cronies and hacks
  • In the first two weeks alone of his infant administration, Obama had made no fewer than 17 exceptions to his “no-lobbyist” rule
  • Why the fact that the massive infusion of union dues into his campaign treasury didn’t trouble him in the least reveals Obama’s credibility as a reformer
  • The lack of unprecedented pace of withdrawals and botched appointments -- and how getting through the confirmation process was no guarantee of ethical cleanliness or competence, even as Obama’s cheerleaders were glorifying the Greatest Transition in World History
  • Inconsistency: How Obama, erstwhile critic of the campaign finance practice known as “bundling,” happily accepted more than $350,000 in bundled contributions from billionaire hedge-fund managers
  • How Obama broke his transparency pledge with the very first bill he signed into law -- helping make hostility to transparency is a running thread through Obama’s cabinet
  • Michelle Obama: Beneath the cultured pearls, sleeveless designer dresses, and eyelashes applied by her full-time makeup artist, is a hardball Chicago politico
  • Joe Biden: It’s not just that he lies, it’s that he lies so well that you think he really believes the stuff he makes up
  • Treasury Secretary Geithner: His ineptness and epic blundering -- including how he nearly caused the collapse of the dollar in international trade with a single remark
  • The appalling story of Technology Czar Vivek Kundra, the convicted shoplifter in charge of the entire federal government’s information security infrastructure
  • Obama’s “Porker of the Month” Transportation Secretary, Roy LaHood: An earmark-addicted influence peddler born and raised on the politics of pay-to-play
  • SEIU: Responsible for installing a cabal of hand-chosen officers who exploited their cash-infused fiefdoms for personal gain and presided over rigged elections -- in the process, becoming all that they had professed to stand against as representatives of the downtrodden worker
  • How Obama lied on his “Fight the Smears” campaign website when he claimed that he “never organized with ACORN”
  • ACORN: How the profound threat the group poses is not merely ideological or economic -- it’s electoral
  • ACORN’s own internal review of shady money transfers among its web of affiliates: How it underscores concerns that conservatives have long raised about the organization
  • Liar, liar, pantsuit on fire: How Hillary Clinton has already trampled upon her promise not to let her husband’s financial dealings sway her decisions as Secretary of State
  • How even a few principled progressives are finally beginning to question the cult of Obama -- even as Obama sycophants in the mainstream media continue to celebrate his “hipness” and “swagga”



Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses


Editorial Reviews

Obama Is Making You Poorer—But Who’s Getting Rich?

Goldman Sachs, GE, Pfizer, the United Auto Workers—the same “special interests” Barack Obama was supposed to chase from the temple—are profiting handsomely from Obama’s Big Government policies that crush taxpayers, small businesses, and consumers. In Obamanomics, investigative reporter Timothy P. Carney digs up the dirt the mainstream media ignores and the White House wishes you wouldn’t see. Rather than Hope and Change, Obama is delivering corporate socialism to America, all while claiming he’s battling corporate America. It’s corporate welfare and regulatory robbery—it’s Obamanomics.