Friday, February 14, 2014

Reprint Heaven: Hope? What Was That About?

(Hopey-Changey, Sorta: I keep watching the antics of our current President [his defense of the excesses of the NSA, and his sudden about-turn-support for completion of the Keystone Pipeline, just to name two recent examples]. I continue to be disappointed and wonder why I am at all surprised.

(The financial structure which helped create the 2008 Crash is still largely unregulated -- it's true that some financial institutions have been slapped with fines and exposed for price-fixing LIBOR, insider trading, and malfeasance in using investor funds to shore up losses and cooking the books. But the shadow market in derivatives, for example, is opaque to all but the people who benefit from it, and chugs on unabated and largely unfettered by oversight or common sense.

(I recently saw an estimate [sorry, folks; do your own research] that the amount of derivatives globally is now in excess of $100 Trillion. Should we ever have another Bad Day At The Race Track as we did in September, 2008 (Or October 29, 1929), that part of the iceberg of international finance we can't see will make things very interesting.

(And, I keep watching the antics of the wealthy and privileged -- a bit like running down a two-lane blacktop towards a pickup truck that's driving on, slowly picking up speed. Our Lords and Masters Of The Universe are in the back of the pickup, watching all of us try and catch up to the truck as it pulls away... and the truck just keeps getting father and farther out of reach, no matter how hard any of us run.  From October, 2009.)


(Margaret Bourke-White, Soup Line, From The 1937 Book
[With Erskine Caldwell] 'Have You Seen Their Faces?' )
All right; move along. Nothing to see here. Go on, or I'll run ya in.

According to Glen Greenwald this morning, Adam Storch, VP of Goldman-Sachs' Business Intelligence Group, has been appointed the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the United States' Securities and Exchange Commission's enforcement division.

Let me repeat: A Vice-President of Goldman-Sachs, the investment firm which participated in ruining the nation's economy, benefited hugely from the Bush TARP program and the Obama continuing bailout; and has current former employees in key positions in the current administration; will be in charge of enforcing securities and trading regulations for the financial industry in the United States.

( MEHR, u. SPATER: And the 29-year-old Storch is only one of quite a long list of former Goldman employees in the administration.  That people in finance take positions in government isn't unusual --  but past a certain point the numbers alone are surprising.)

Uh-huh. I've broken up a larger paragraph of Greenwald's post below to make a point:

In October of last year [Greenwald writes], a Goldman-Sachs Vice President, Neel Kashkari, was named by former Goldman CEO and then-Treasury Secretary Hank Pauslon to oversee the $700 billion TARP bailout.

Bernanke; Ex-Goldman CEO Paulson; Lil' Boots (Photo: MSNBC)

>> In January of this year, Tim Geithner hired a former Goldman-Sachs lobbyist, Mark Patterson, to be his top aide and Chief of Staff.

>> In March, President Obama nominated Goldman-Sachs executive Gary Gensler to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates futures markets, even though (or "because") Gensler confessed to lax regulation during the Clinton administration over the very derivative instruments that caused the financial crisis.


The National Debt As Percentage Of GDP (Matt Yglesias, 10/3/08)

>> In April, Goldman hired as its top lobbyist Michael Paese, the chief aide to Rep. Barney Frank on the House Financial Services Committee, which Frank chairs.

Of course, only an irrational, raving conspiracy theorist would believe that any of those events have any connection at all to this, from today's Washington Post:


"The nation's largest banks, preserved from failure by federal aid and romping in markets revived by federal aid, are racking up vast profits even as the broader economy struggles to emerge from recession . . ."

"Goldman said it earned $3.19 billion between July and September, nearly the most it has ever made in three months, a record it set earlier this year."

(Billboard, Connecticut Ave. and Morrison St. NW, Washington D.C., 2009)

Worldwide economic collapse was avoided after the Fall of 2008. It should surprise no one that after the U.S. Government transferred trillions of dollars to the banking and investment sector, then that sector's performance improved.

But if the surviving banks are bigger and more powerful than before the crisis and crash (which is not over), if they are not subject to greater, independent scrutiny and regulation... then one of the primary stated goals of the government -- to eliminate the risk and ensure that circumstances which caused the economic meltdown would not happen again -- well, that's just a complete failure.

This was one result of the Crash of 1929, through New Deal legislation -- creation of the SEC, a regulatory agency which had never existed before. It was part of a sweeping reform of both the securities and banking system, which we need now, badly -- and won't get. Because the fix is in.

(Source: Contexts.org; Data through mid-2005)

What's occuring isn't free-market Capitalism. It's gaming the system for a narrow group of players which benefits them, enormously, while the remainder of the population suffers and struggles.

It's trickle-down, Supply-Side, We-got-ours-and-fuck-the-rest-of-you Darwinism that favors the top one-tenth-of-one per cent of the population. I'm sorry to disappoint the Teabaggers, but this isn't 'Socialism' at all. It's theft.

Why is the President allowing this to occur? Like any crime, you ask Who has motive? Who benefits? and, Who can get away with it?
...

The Financial Services Committee in the House -- Representative Barney Frank's committee (remember Michael Paese? Frank's former top aide; who now works for Goldman?) -- yesterday passed a bill to regulate derivatives which Greenwald says "is so filled with loopholes it may end up exempting most industry players" -- an absolute benefit for Goldman-Sachs.

Greenwald concludes, That the administration continues, so brazenly, to place Goldman-Sachs executives in the very government positions with the greatest power over the financial industry illustrates how little effort is devoted to hiding what is really taking place.


Our political circus -- the 'Birthers', 'Teabaggers'; Limbaugh, Beck and Bachmann -- only keeps our eyes off the People Behind The Curtain. Those sparkly, shiny, noisy advertisements on teevee beckon us on, to a future filled with consumer goods and elite access that can never be ours. 99% will live in prefabricated dwellings, while the %0.10 live in the sort of safety and comfort, for themselves and their children, that we will never even see a photograph of in one of Rupert Murdoch's Fox Tabloids.

Better Than The Goddamn Reds! -- ad campaign of the American Industry Council, 1935,
showing all three major billboards in a series (The central one appeared in Bourke-White's photo,
Soup Line) Life, however, was much harder for most people than these ads portrayed.
For those running the show, it always pays to promote cognitive dissonance.

Meanwhile, the same groups of players, more or less, manage to benefit year after year and generation after generation. Does anyone believe that 'former' employees of Goldman-Sachs, now in government, won't make decisions which protect their friends? And after four or more years on small government salaries, where will they go? Back to work at Goldman, of course.

In 2001, it was a huge tax cut for the upper 2% of America's population. This time, in 2008 and 2009, banks and investment houses are being handed our money directly, and with little oversight as to how they use it. They certainly aren't lemnding more money -- which was the point of the bailout, to free up capital to lend, stimulate the economy and create jobs for the millions out of work.

But, no. Instead, they're holding on to the Bush-TARP and Obama-bailout funds. They're paying out huge bonuses to their executives. They're continuing to squeal that things are hard, and that they may need more money.

Didn't we just have an election, which in part was about a corrupt, incompetent, Rich, Frat-Boy leader who dragged the country into debt and an utterly mismanaged war, while he and his "Have and Have Mores" friends did so very well?

Who was all the Hope you spoke about for, Mr. President?
Everybody knows the dice are loaded,
everybody rolls with their fingers crossed;
everybody knows the war is over;
everybody knows the good guys lost

-- Leonard Cohen