NO ONE HAS WORKED HARDER FOR CRIMINALS ON WALL ST THAN BARACK OBAMA!
NOT ONE OF HIS CRIMINAL BANKSTERS HAVE GONE TO PRISON. IN FACT, THEIR PROFITS SOARED MORE DURING OBAMA’S FIRST TWO YEARS THAN ALL EIGHT UNDER BUSH!
Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises
Posted: 06/13/2012 9:17 am Updated: 06/13/2012 3:44 pm
WASHINGTON -- A critical document from President Barack Obama's free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.
The leaked document has been posted on the website of Public Citizen, a long-time critic of the administration's trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.
"The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of [trade] negotiations," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch in a written statement.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been so incensed by the lack of access as to introduce legislation requiring further disclosure. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has gone so far as to leak a separate document from the talks on his website. Other Senators are considering writing a letter to Ron Kirk, the top trade negotiator under Obama, demanding more disclosure.
The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration's advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.
Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.
The terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.
"We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications," reads the campaign document.
Yet nearly all of those vows are violated by the leaked Trans-Pacific document. The one that is not contravened in the present document -- regarding access to life-saving medication -- is in conflict with a previously leaked document on intellectual property (IP) standards.
Yet nearly all of those vows are violated by the leaked Trans-Pacific document. The one that is not contravened in the present document -- regarding access to life-saving medication -- is in conflict with a previously leaked document on intellectual property (IP) standards.
"Bush was better than Obama on this," said Judit Rius, U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, referring to the medication rules. "It's pathetic, but it is what it is. The world's upside-down."
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative insists that while broad standards require many medical patents and IP rules that would increase the price of medications, the U.S. intends to work with countries involved in the Trans-Pacific talks to ensure that the agreement does not restrict access to life-saving drugs.
USTR was not immediately available to comment on the newly leaked investment chapter of the Trans-Pacific deal, and has previously stated that it cannot comment on the terms of an allegedly leaked document.
That statement is belied somewhat by recent American efforts in other international negotiations to establish controversial medical patents that grant companies long-term monopolies on life-saving medications. Those monopolies increase drug prices, which impede access to medications, particularly in developing nations. The World Health Organization and dozens of nonprofit public health groups have objected to the standards sought by the Obama administration. Two United Nations groups recently urged global governments not to agree to trade terms currently being advocated by the Obama administration, on the grounds that such rules would hurt public health.
Such foreign investment standards have also come under fire at home, from both conservative sovereignty purists and progressive activists for the potential to hamper domestic priorities implemented by democratically elected leaders. The North American Free Trade Agreement, passed by Congress in 1993, and a host of subsequent trade pacts granted corporations new powers that had previously been reserved for sovereign nations and that have allowed companies to sue nations directly over issues.
While the current trade deal could pose a challenge to American sovereignty, large corporations headquartered in the U.S. could potentially benefit from it by using the same terms to oppose the laws of foreign governments. If one of the eight Pacific nations involved in the talks passes a new rule to which an American firm objects, that U.S. company could take the country to court directly in international tribunals.
Public Citizen challenged the independence of these international tribunals, noting that "The tribunals would be staffed by private sector lawyers that rotate between acting as 'judges' and as advocates for the investors suing the governments," according to the text of the agreement.
In early June, a tribunal at the World Bank agreed to hear a case involving similar foreign investment standards, in which El Salvador banned cyanide-based gold mining on the basis of objections from the Catholic Church and environmental activists. If the World Bank rules against El Salvador, it could overturn the nation's domestic laws at the behest of a foreign corporation.
Speaking to the environmental concerns raised by the leaked document, Margrete Strand Rangnes, Labor and Trade Director for the Sierra Club, an environmental group said, "Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text ... This investment chapter would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy."
Basic public health and land-use rules would be subject to challenge before an international tribunal, as would bank regulations at capital levels that might be used to stymie bank runs or financial crises. The IMF has advocated the use of such capital controls, which would be prohibited under the current version of the leaked trade pact. Although several countries have proposed exceptions that would allow them to regulate speculative financial bets, the U.S. has resisted those proposals, according to Public Citizen.
Trans-Pacific negotiations have been taking place throughout the Obama presidency. The deal is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the top lobbying group for American corporations. Obama's Republican opponent in the 2012 presidential elections, Mitt Romney, has urged the U.S. to finalize the deal as soon as possible.
This post has been updated to include comment from the Sierra Club.
OBAMA PROMISED HIS CRIMINAL BANKSTER DONORS NO PRISON TIME AND NO REAL REGULATION. DID HE DELIVER?
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.
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 OBAMA'S ASSAULT ON THE AMERICAN PEOPLE FOR BANKSTERS and ILLEGALS!
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.
WHAT DID THE BANKSTERS KNOW ABOUT OUR ACTOR OBAMA THAT WE DIDN’T 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).
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.
IS THERE A GLOBAL WAR BETWEEN FINANCIAL THEOCRACY AND DEMOCRACY?
BY LES LEOPOLD
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.
Les Leopold is the author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance destroyed our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity, and What We Can Do About ItChelsea Green Publishing, June 2009.
US bank profits soar while lending drops
By Patrick Martin
26 May 2012
26 May 2012
US bank profits rose sharply during the first quarter of 2012, according to figures compiled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the eleventh consecutive quarter in which net earnings were higher than the previous year.
Aggregate profits of all the banks and savings institutions insured by the FDIC rose to $35.3 billion in the January-March period, up from $28.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the highest quarterly profit figure since 2007.
The five-year record profits come on top of bumper earnings in 2011, the most profitable year for banking since 2006. While jobs and wages for working people remain deeply depressed, the financial sector, which caused the economic slump, is doing better than ever.
This applies particularly to the financial giants. Two-thirds of all US financial institutions reported increased profits, but the vast bulk of these profits were concentrated in the largest banks, those with assets over $10 billion. While they make up only 1.4 percent of all banks, these institutions raked in 81 percent of the net earnings.
While profits rose 23 percent compared to a year earlier, net operating income revenue was up only five percent. This means most banks boosted their profits not from lending activities, but through bookkeeping operations, like reducing the amount they set aside to cover loan losses (down $6.6 billion compared to the same quarter in 2011).
Overall, banks cut their total lending by about one percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the previous quarter. This once again disproves the rationale for the Bush-Obama bank bailout: the claim that rescuing the banks would enable them to resume lending on a wider scale and thus fuel an economic recovery in the United States.
Consumer lending fell in most categories, with the biggest drop in credit card debt, $38.2 billion, a 5.6 percent decline typical of the post-Christmas quarter. Home mortgages fell by $19.2 billion and home equity lines of credit by $13.1 billion. Auto loans rose by $4.5 billion.
Loans to businesses were mixed, with construction and real estate development loans declining by $11.7 billion, offset by an increase in loans to commercial and industrial borrowers, which rose $27.3 billion, or 14 percent.
Combining both consumer and business lending, bank credit fell by $56.3 billion compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, reversing the previous nine months in which aggregate lending increased.
Acting FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said in a statement, “The overall decline in loan balances is disappointing after we saw three quarters of growth last year.”
There were some signs of distress. More than 10 percent of banks reported net losses in the first quarter, while the proportion of loans and leases not up-to-date on payments remained high.
The FDIC report comes just over two weeks after Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke told a banking conference in Chicago that big banks and corporations now faced credit conditions that “have improved significantly in a number of areas.”
Bernanke said that large companies and wealthy individuals could find credit easily, but admitted that for small business owners the conditions were “challenging,” a word that should be translated into ordinary English as “desperate.”
Bank loans to small businesses were still 15 percent below their 2008 peak at the end of last year, he said.
With the slowdown in the US economic “recovery” that has been reflected in stagnant job figures for the last two months, the credit situation facing working people, students and small businesses is likely to worsen.