To close out 2009, I decided to do something I bet no member of Congress has done — actually read from cover to cover one of the pieces of sweeping legislation bouncing around Capitol Hill.
Hunkering down by the fire, I snuggled up with H.R. 4173, the financial-reform legislation passed earlier this month by the House of Representatives. I quickly discovered why members of Congress rarely read legislation like this. At 1,279 pages, the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act” is a real slog.
Here are some of the nuggets I gleaned from days spent reading Frank’s handiwork:
For all its heft, the bill doesn’t once mention the words “too-big-to-fail,” the main issue confronting the financial system.
Instead, it supports the biggest banks. It authorizes Federal Reserve banks to provide as much as $4 trillion in emergency funding the next time Wall Street crashes. So much for “no-more-bailouts” talk. That is more than twice what the Fed pumped into markets this time around. The size of the fund makes the bribes in the Senate’s health-care bill look minuscule.
Oh, hold on, the Federal Reserve and Treasury Secretary can’t authorize these funds unless “there is at least a 99 percent likelihood that all funds and interest will be paid back.” Too bad the same models used to foresee the housing meltdown probably will be used to predict this likelihood as well.
The bill also allows regulators to “prohibit any incentive-based payment arrangement.” In other words, banker bonuses are still in play.
The bill isn’t all bad, though. It creates a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the brainchild of Elizabeth
SIGTARP Calls Out Tim Geithner On Various Violations Including Data Manipulation, Lack Of Transparency, “Cruel” Cynicism, And Gross Incompetence
by ilene - October 26th, 2010 1:53 am
SIGTARP Calls Out Tim Geithner On Various Violations Including Data Manipulation, Lack Of Transparency, "Cruel" Cynicism, And Gross Incompetence
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
SigTarp Neil Barofsky has just released the most scathing critique of all the idiots in the administration, with a particular soft spot for Tim Geithner.
On the failure of TARP to increase lending:
As these quarterly reports to congress have well chronicled and as Treasury itself recently conceded in its acknowledgement that "banks continue to report falling loan balances," TARP has failed to "increase lending" with small businesses in particular unable to secured badly needed credit. Indeed, even now, overall lending continues to contract, despite the hundreds of billions of TARP dollars provided to banks with the express purpose to increase lending.
On TARP’s sole success of boosting Wall Street bonuses:
While large bonuses are returning to Wall Street, the nation’s poverty rate increased from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% in 2009, and for far too many, the recession has ended in name only.
On TARP’s failure in general:
Finally, the most specific of TARP’s Main Street goals, "preserving homeownership" has so far fallen woefully short, with TARP’s portion of the Administration’s mortgage modification program yielding only approximately 207,000 ongoing permanent modifications since TARP’s inception, a number that stands in stark contrast to the 5.5 million homes receiving foreclosure filings and more than 1.7 million homes that have been lost to foreclosure since January 2009.
On the Treasury’s scam in minimizing publicized AIG losses, and on Geithner as a Wall Street puppet whose actions are increasingly destroying public faith in the government:
While SIGTARP offers no opinion on the appropriateness or accuracy of the valuation contained in the Retrospective, we believe that the Retrospective fails to meet basic transparency standards by failing to disclose: (1) that the new lower estimate followed a change in the methodology that Treasury previously used to calculate expected losses on its AIG investment; and (2) that Treasury would be required by its auditors to use the older, and presumably less favorable, methodology in the official audited financials statements. To avoid potential confusion, Treasury should have disclosed that it had changed its valuation methodology and should have published a side-by-side comparison of its new numbers with what the projected losses would be under the auditor-approved methodology that Treasury had used previously and will
by ilene - October 5th, 2010 3:52 pm
Courtesy of Zero Hedge
Some rather scary predictions out of Paul Farrell today: "It’s inevitable: Wall Street banks control the Federal Reserve system, it’s their personal piggy bank. They’ve already done so much damage, yet have more control than ever.Warning: That’s a set-up. They will eventually destroy capitalism, democracy, and the dollar’s global reserve-currency status. They will self-destruct before 2035 … maybe as early as 2012 … most likely by 2020. Last week we cheered the Tea Party for starting the countdown to the Second American Revolution. Our timeline is crucial to understanding the historic implications of Taleb’s prediction that the Fed is dying, that it’s only a matter of time before a revolution triggers class warfare forcing America to dump capitalism, eliminate our corrupt system of lobbying, come up with a new workable form of government, and create a new economy without a banking system ruled by Wall Street." And just like in the Hangover, where the guy is funny because he’s fat, Farrell is scary cause he is spot on correct.
Handily, Farrell provides a projected timeline of events:
Stage 1: The Democrats just put the nail in their coffin confirming they’re wimps when they refused to force the GOP to filibuster Bush tax cuts for billionaires.
Stage 2: In the elections the GOP takes over the House, expanding its strategic war to destroy Obama with its policy of “complete gridlock” and “shutting down government.”
Stage 3: Post-election Obama goes lame-duck, buried in subpoenas and vetoes.
Stage 4: In 2012, the GOP wins back the White House and Senate. Health care returns to insurers. Free-market financial deregulation returns. Lobbyists intensify their anarchy.
Stage 5: Before the end of the second term of the new GOP president, Washington is totally corrupted by unlimited, anonymous donations from billionaires and lobbyists. Wall Street’s Happy Conspiracy triggers the third catastrophic meltdown of the 21st century that Robert Shiller of “Irrational Exuberance” fame predicts, resulting in defaults of dollar-denominated debt and the dollar’s demise as the world’s reserve currency.
Stage 6: The Second American Revolution explodes into a brutal full-scale class war with the middle class leading a widespread rebellion against the out-of-touch, out-of-control Happy Conspiracy sabotaging America from within.
Stage 7: The domestic class warfare is exaggerated as the Pentagon’s global warnings play out: That by 2020
by ilene - May 14th, 2010 11:25 am
Courtesy of Marla Singer, Zero Hedge
On the 5th of March in 1946, in Fulton Missouri, at Westminster College, Winston Churchill delivered an address (since christened the "Sinews of Peace") lamenting the burgeoning power and influence being slowly but surely gathered up by the Soviet Union. Perhaps the address will be familiar to some of you owing to its most famous passage:
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone — Greece with its immortal glories — is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation.
Ironic, as I will address, that he should mention Greece.
Much less well known perhaps is this later passage:
Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become.1
The "Iron Curtain" came, of course, to signify the cavernous ideological, and eventually concretely physical, divide between East and West. It took some 43 years before it was lifted once more, first and haltingly, in the form of the removal of Hungary’s border fence in mid-1989 and then, of course, finally via the fall of the Berlin Wall in November that same year.
Not to be compared with a production of Italian Opera, the Iron Curtain did not describe a sudden, smooth, abrupt descent over the stages of Eastern Europe. Quite the contrary, its drop was in stutters of discrete, fractional lowerings, such that it was a full fifteen years after Churchill used the term before its ultimate expression, the Berlin Wall, was finally…
by ilene - December 30th, 2009 9:55 pm
Courtesy of Mish
Barney Frank introduced H. R. 4173 purportedly "To provide for financial regulatory reform, to protect consumers and investors, to enhance Federal understanding of insurance issues, to regulate the over-the-counter derivatives markets, and for other purposes."
The bill is 1,279 pages long. I did not read it in entirety but Bloomberg columnist David Reilly did. It is amazing the things Barney Frank buried in a bill that is supposed to protect consumers. The bill does nothing for consumers, but does allocate $4 trillion to fighting the next financial crisis.
Please consider Bankers Get $4 Trillion Gift From Barney Frank: David Reilly.
by ilene - December 9th, 2009 1:53 pm
Courtesy of Lynn Parramore at New Deal 2.0
Yesterday on Counterpunch, Andrew Cockburn (co-producer of American Casino) gave voice to biggest worry in the financial reform movement today, namely, that the bill creeping through Congress will leave a loophole for derivatives big enough to drive a truck through.
As Cockburn notes, it has been “the hope and aspiration of reformers, and even, professedly, of the Obama Administration, to enforce trading in such derivatives as the infamous Credit Default Swaps onto exchanges where trading activity, pricing, would be visible for all to see. That’s what Congressman Barney Frank heralded for the bill gestating in his Financial Services Committee; that’s what Congressman Colin Peterson claimed for the amendment to Frank’s bill that emerged from his House Agriculture Committee.”
But is it happening? Doesn’t look like it, due to what Cockburn has referred to as a “poisoned loophole” that would allow “‘any voice brokerage facility,’ i.e. two people talking on the phone,” to continuing doing business in the dark. There are also serious questions about what, exactly, will count as an “exchange.” A report on these concerns penned by Cockburn made the rounds on Capitol Hill, and his ideas seemed to be getting traction. But that all came to a screeching halt over the weekend. A ‘friendly veteran’ wrote to Cockburn: “…It appears the forces of darkness never rest; the House Rules Committee has posted what is likely to be the new derivatives section of the House financial reform bill.”
The upshot is this: a new definition of an ‘alternative swap execution facility” has been created, which defeats the hope of transparency and exchange-like trading. The winners? Banks like JP Morgan, which raked in a whopping $3 billion from derivatives last quarter.
Click here to read full text of Cockburn’s post.
by ilene - December 8th, 2009 7:51 pm
Courtesy of Ed Harrison at Credit Writedowns
That is the question Newsweek asked of the Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts in charge of banking reform efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives in an interview. Rather than answer the question fairly, Frank attacked the reporter and eventually ended the interview. Don’t expect anything serious on financial reform from Congress.
So, we have a major, major financial crisis that almost causes the whole system to collapse. To ‘save the system’ taxpayers pony up $700 billion in bailout aid, another $800 billion line of credit to pay for the failure of bankrupt institutions, and tens of trillions for a plethora of government backstops. Immediately afterwards, banks go on to earn record profits and pay themselves record bonuses. And this is what we get for reform (emphasis added):
Not even critics accuse Barney Frank of being in the pocket of Wall Street. The real question is whether he and -others are being swayed by the legislative legerdemain that Wall Street lobbyists have long practiced. The story of how those loopholes got into the derivatives bill, even with Frank at the helm and the wind of public outrage at his back, shows just how powerful the Wall Street banking lobby remains—and how complex Wall Street’s financial instruments have become. "I don’t think he ever fully understood the legislation" in its early stages, says Greenberger. Many of the key lobbyists now are the same gang that helped get us into this mess before, and they’re spending huge sums once again. In the first three quarters of 2009, financial-industry interests have spent $344 million on lobbying efforts, putting them on pace to break all records, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s just for lobbyists’ and lawyers’ salaries, junkets, and dinners, and doesn’t include political donations and issue ads. Even more impressive is the lobbying strategy that money is buying. According to insiders and industry e-mails obtained by NEWSWEEK, the banks have sought to stay in the background and put their corporate customers—a who’s who of American business, including Apple, Whirlpool, and John Deere—out in front of the campaign. "This is an orchestrated, well-funded effort by the banks to manipulate our legislation and leave no fingerprints," says a congressional staffer involved in drafting the
by ilene - November 22nd, 2009 9:22 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Alan Greenspan’s economic legacy is slowly but surely deterioration from that of one created by a "Maestro", to the deranged hungover flashbacks of the most inept monetarst dilettante and plutocrat puppet in the history of fiat capitalism. And with ever increasing honest and truthful observations as those shared by Naomi Klein and Joseph Stiglitz in the 1 hour + program attached, courtesy of Fora TV, only the remnants of the quickly evaporating close circle of Bernanke and Co., will have anything favorable left to say for the man who took the mundane task of building bubbles and converted it into rocket science so complex that only a few people at Goldman Sachs figured out how to benefit from it. We encourage all readers to spend some time watching the program before, just like Barney Frank and other bribed politicans, deciding that changing the status quo vis-a-vis the Fed is a step in the "wrong direction."
10 minute excerpt below:
Watch the full program or select from the following clips. We would like to draw your attention to clips 2, 7, 11 and 13
02. Flawed Economic Model
03. Economic Power and Ideology
04. Collapse of Trust in Legal System
05. Legal Means of Assistance
06. Effects of Bailout
07. How This Crisis Came About
08. New Unregulated Markets
09. Modern Capitalism Separates Ownership and Control
11. Government Controlled by Banking Interest
12. Property Information System
13. Protection of Wealthy and Powerful
14. Documentation of Who Owns What
15. New Orleans Troubles
16. Foreclosures are Economic Katrinas
Art: Courtesy of Dangerous Minds
by ilene - November 20th, 2009 10:29 am
Courtesy of Mish
Chalk up a rare victory for the little guy (and the nation itself). The Bill To Audit Federal Reserve Passes Key Hurdle
In an unprecedented defeat for the Federal Reserve, an amendment to audit the multi-trillion dollar institution was approved by the House Finance Committee with an overwhelming and bipartisan 43-26 vote on Thursday afternoon despite harried last-minute lobbying from top Fed officials and the surprise opposition of Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who had previously been a supporter.
The measure, cosponsored by Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), authorizes the Government Accountability Office to conduct a wide-ranging audit of the Fed’s opaque deals with foreign central banks and major U.S. financial institutions. The Fed has never had a real audit in its history and little is known of what it does with the trillions of dollars at its disposal.
Backers of the Watt amendment pressed their case on Wednesday by sending a letter from a "political cross section of prominent economists" backing a measure like Watt’s. HuffPost reported, however, that those economists might well have be prominent, but they certainly aren’t a "political cross section." Seven of the eight economists in question have extensive connections to the Fed — and half of them are currently on the Fed payroll. Those affiliations were not noted in the letter.
The playbook in Washington often goes like this: When a measure that threatens the establishment builds enough momentum that it must be dealt with, it is labeled as "unserious." The Washington Post editorial board, true to the script, called Paul’s measure "an unserious answer to a serious question."
And it particularly rankles the center that a pair of "wingnuts" are behind a successful effort to challenge the prevailing order. [See Grayson Called "Wingnut" By New York Times].
For anyone remaining confused, the debate was further clarified by the central bank itself: Federal Reserve Vice Chair Don Cohn and General Counsel Scott Alvarez spent much of the day calling committee members, urging them to oppose the Paul-Grayson amendment in favor of Watt’s, a member of Congress who asked for confidentiality told HuffPost.
Paul’s opponents also placed a letter from former Fed chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker on the seats of every committee member. Such a move
by ilene - August 28th, 2009 3:27 am
Courtesy of Mish
Occasionally, even the most hopeless of politicians get something right. Here is stunning proof:
I have been pushing for more openness from the Fed. I want to restrict the powers of the Federal Reserve. First of all, the Fed will be the major losers of power if we are successful, as I believe we will be, setting up a financial product protection commission.
The Federal Reserve is now charged with protecting consumers. They were supposed to do subprime mortgage restrictions.
Congress in 1994 gave the Fed powers to ban subprime mortgages. Alan Greenspan refused to do it. They had the power to ban credit card abuses. Under Greenspan they did nothing. Under Bernanke they started but only after Congress acted.
That’s one of the reasons why in the new consumer protection agency, we will take away from the Federal reserve the power to go consumer protection.
Secondly, they have has since 1932 a right under Herbert Hoover to intervene in the economy whenever they could. Last September, the Federal Reserve they were going to advance $82 billion to AIG.
I was kind of surprised and said Mr Bernanke do you have $82 billion? Mr. Bernanke replied I have $800 billion and under section 13.3 of the Federal Reserve Act they can lend anything they want.
We are going to curtail that lending power. We are going to put some restrictions on it.
Finally we will subject them to a complete audit. I have been working with Ron Paul, who is the main sponsor of that bill. He agrees that we don’t want to have the audit appear as if influences monetary policy as that would be inflationary.
One of the things the audit will show you is what the Federal Reserve buys itself. And that will be made public, but not instantly because if it was made instantly people would be trading off it, so the data would be released after a time period of several months, enough time so it will not be market sensitive.
This will probably pass in October.
This is clearly not perfect. However, it is a step in the right direction. The only reason it it may happen is people are overwhelmingly in support of it. Change is possible, over
by ilene - August 16th, 2009 5:54 pm
Courtesy of Mish
Bush’s "ownership society" has collapsed under the dead weight of debt. There is too much debt and too little income to support it. Please consider President shifts focus to renting, not owning.
The Obama administration, in a major shift on housing policy, is abandoning George W. Bush’s vision of creating an “ownership society’’ and instead plans to pump $4.25 billion of economic stimulus money into creating tens of thousands of federally subsidized rental units in American cities.
The idea is to pay for the construction of low-rise rental apartment buildings and town houses, as well as the purchase of foreclosed homes that can be refurbished and rented to low- and moderate-income families at affordable rates.
Analysts say the approach takes a wrecking ball to Bush’s heavy emphasis on encouraging homeownership as a way to create national wealth and provide upward mobility for low- and working-class families, especially minorities. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan’s recalibration of federal housing policy, they said, shows that the Obama White House has acknowledged that not everyone can or should own a home.
In addition to an ideological shift, the move is a practical response to skyrocketing foreclosure rates, tight credit, and the economic crisis.
Barney Frank The Hypocrite
"I’ve always said the American dream should be a home – not homeownership," said Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and one of the earliest critics of the Bush administration’s push to put mortgages in the hands of low- and moderate-income people.
What a distortion of reality. Barney Frank was in the pocket of Fannie Mae and Freddie make and their biggest supporter for years. Now he plays on semantics in an unbelievable lie. He would have been better off keeping his mouth shut, but political hacks seldom if ever can.
It’s Better To Rent
The "Rentership Society" as Calculated Risk dubs it, reminds me of a chart I put together way back in Spring of 2005. Note the lower right hand corner of the top chart.
San Diego Home Prices (with thanks to piggington)
The above charts are from It’s a Totally New Paradigm written March 26, 2005. Here are some excerpts from that post.
- Ron Shuffield, president of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors says that "South Florida is