America’s Economic Gang-Rape Triumvirate: BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT, ACADEMIA
Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian:
Once again, the phrase that comes to mind is Milton Friedman's: socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the rest. An ordinary person defaults on his debt, he gets to live in his car. A banker defaults, and the taxpayer can be relied on to bail him out.
Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe:
Chief executive Lloyd Blankfein is reported to have taken home $125 million in bonuses over the course of a decade. What’s amazing about that Senate hearing is how Blankfein and other Goldman Sachs executives appeared to be unfazed when confronted with evidence of their malfeasance — pushing securities they knew to be iffy. Notoriously, the company’s e-mails use a different, unprintable word.
Top executives of the insolvent companies walked away from the crisis they had helped create with their personal fortunes intact. This happened because the boards of directors – which have responsibility for such decisions - are generally hand picked by the CEOs. Examples include Countrywide’s Angelo Mozilo, Merrill Lynch’s Stan O'Neal, O'Neal’s successor John Thain and AIG’s Joseph Cassano. In the months after the government bailout, boards handed out billions in bonuses.
There has not been nor is any serious challenge to the perpetrators of our profound economic crisis that continues to devastate the lives of millions of Americans and millions and millions of foreign citizens. We are all at the mercy of the economic gang rapists who are far from through. Whose to stop them? They are ALL still in charge.
Most Americans are too stupefied at this point to acknowledge them, LABEL them, and the scope and continuation of their massive and audacious crimes against humanity. These profits-over-people amoral cronies are in charge of our government, our businesses, and (often ignored) our universities.
Charles Ferguson’s Academy Award winning 2010 documentary “Inside Job” successfully explains the making of the economic crisis in America. I accessed several commentaries of his film and came up with some enlightening as well as infuriating disclosures.
Unfortunately, this “inside job” continues on as Ferguson’s narrative conceded. Because the colluders, the bastards of the universe from business, government, academia, are still enjoying full out power, influence, and reward for continuing profound unethical behavior.
Pre-1980s regulatory accountability would have caught them all up. But it had been dismantled thanks to all of them teaming up.
Since they are still in charge and accountability-free, not only do they not have to pay for what they have done, their amorality will accelerate as well as their financial rewards. Continued economic rewards and even half-witted media prestige. Look for them on Charlie Rose, Meet the Press, The NewsHour, CNN, presidential and congressional press conferences, etc. These are America’s consequences for her leadership’s crossing over to the “dark side” into collective collusive conscience-less fraud? "Massive sociopolitical malfeasance" Peter Rainer once labeled it.
The financial mafia groups seriously began consolidating in the 1980s. They also began climbing into bed with a no longer policing government. Then expanded the affair to a manage-a-trois by inviting in citizen-betraying, high profile academics to endorse the deregulation and grant them continued cover.
Businesspeople became government appointees and then returned to the private sector with ample rewards for their conflict-of-interest weakened job performances.
One stunning example is Henry Paulson who had been the CEO of Goldman Sachs until 2006. (Just a note, in the first half of 2006 he had sold more than $3 billion of those fraudulent little credit default instruments, the ones with the triple-A blessing of the top ratings agenices.) Then later that same year Pauslon became the US Treasury Secretary. Paulson, in addition, architect of the nefarious TARP bailout. Consider that!
Perhaps the most sensational aspect of this film is Ferguson's contention that the crash corrupted the discipline of economics itself. Distinguished economists from America's Ivy League universities were drafted in by banks to compose reports sycophantically supporting reckless deregulation. They were massively paid for these consultancies. The banks bought the prestige of the academics, and their universities' prestige, too.
This is what Ferguson means by "inside job". There is a revolving door between the banks and the higher reaches of government, and to some extent the groves of academe. Bank CEOs become government officials, creating laws convenient for their once and future employers.
The new Obama administration’s financial reforms have been weak, and as regards the practices of ratings agencies, lobbyists, and executive compensation, "nothing significant was even proposed". Geithner became Treasury Secretary and a host of other government officials appointed by Obama would appear to have significant conflicts of interest. Feldstein, Tyson and Summers are all top economic advisors to Obama. Bernanke was reappointed Fed Chair. European nations have imposed strict regulations on bank compensation, but the U.S. has resisted them.
The movie suspects that financial deregulation is at the root of how we got here. Since the Reagan era, Ferguson argues, the White House has been robustly staffed with men and women from finance who oppose regulation and have steadily acquired the administrative power to contort the government to their will.
Did you know John Campbell, the department chair of Harvard’s economics department, sees no conflict of interest in members of his faculty who take big bucks from the financial industry then stand as obstacles to financial regulation?
Carrie Rickie of the Inquirer (Philadelphia):
What went wrong? Ferguson points to the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era legislation crafted in response to the 1929 stock-market crash. Once depository banks could merge with investment houses, the floodgates were open.
The result was a round robin of collusion. Bankers encouraged risky investments in subprime mortgages even as they used credit default swaps to protect their own exposure. University professors were commissioned by financial-services outfits to testify to the fundamentals of such dubious investments. Rating agencies such as Moody's certified bonds, making them seem secure. And the Federal Reserve had no reservations.
Ferguson focuses on the mutual back-scratching arrangements between the financial-services industry and free-market academics that made such risky business practices appear prudent.
Duane Byrge of the Hollywood Reporter on the revelations of Inside Job:
Most pointedly, Inside Job clearly illuminates the collusion between governmental agencies, the giant financial service companies and the hordes of insiders who slopped at both sides of the trough. In short, "Inside Job" exposes the conflicts of interest between brokerage, regulation and government.
Further, Inside Job also maps the conflict-of-interest rampant throughout top business schools, such as Harvard and Columbia, whose professors garner huge consulting fees by the very firms perpetrating the de-regulation mantra.
Rooting the crisis in the move toward de-regulation begun during the Reagan administration and now continuing under Obama, Inside Job illuminates how the Wall Street culprits who caused this crisis have moved through to the other side of the fence. Such financial services honchos/culprits as Bush appointee Hank Paulson and Obama-men Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers have held or now hold high presidential advisory posts.
The sell-outs of America’s supposedly best and brightest academics need to be addressed more fully by the citizenry. Wikipedia:
In the U.S., major banks are now bigger and more powerful than ever before. In the wake of the crisis, the financial industry (notably through the Financial Services Roundtable) doubled-down on anti-reform efforts through its 3,000 Washington lobbyists. In addition, these vested interests have "corrupted the study of economics itself". Academic economists have for decades advocated for deregulation and helped shape official U.S. government policy. In general, they did not warn of the 2008 crisis and many still opposed reform after it. Examples include Harvard’s Martin Feldstein (a major architect of deregulation in the 1980s and a well-compensated AIG board member afterward), the Columbia Business School’s R. Glenn Hubbard (chairman of Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, CEA), and UC Berkley’s Laura Tyson (another CEA chair and now on Morgan Stanley’s board). Other examples include Brown University’s Ruth Simmons, Harvard’s Larry Summers and Mishkin, who had written an over-optimistic study of Iceland’s finances. Payments for commissioned studies such as this are generally not disclosed, thus creating a conflict of interest. This "economic academic experts-for-hire industry" includes such consulting firms as the Analysis Group, Charles River Associates, Compass Lexecon, and the Law and Economics Consulting Group (LECG).
“Systemic” corruption is how wikipedia distills Mr. Ferguson’s take on what happened. The financial services companies decided to covertly service themselves at the expense of their investors. His movie at first addresses the crisis in Iceland. In 2000 Iceland deregulated its banks. In 2008 the economy collapsed. Credit rating agencies and the government enabled the bankers to set up an elaborate Ponzi scheme against the citizenry.
In 1940-1980 there was trustworthy regulation of banks in America. What happened? WTF HAPPENED?
The “investment banks” went public in 1980, and according to Wikipedia, 30 years of DEREGULATION began. By the end of the 1980s taxpayers had lost $124 billion in the savings and loans crisis.
So there was a crisis that should have put a stop to the madness. But it didn’t at all, though at that point some scoundrels were actually seeing jail time.
Thousands of S&L executives went to jail. By the late 1990s, the U.S. financial sector had consolidated into a few giant firms, "each so large that their failure would threaten the whole financial system". Some mergers violated the law – the Glass–Steagall Act (1933). But Glass–Steagall was revoked by Congress in 1999 with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act – called by some the "Citigroup Relief Act".
The “Citigroup Relief Act”? Dear God.
In 2001 the internet stock bubble burst and that cost investors a cool $5 trillion. Apparently the SEC, Security and Exchange Commission, profoundly enabled this fiasco to happen. Unmonitored stock analysts promoted internet companies they knew would fail for quick intense profits.
Another crisis. Did reform happen then? No. Remember the bedfellows who do not give a sh*t about the taxpaying citizenry? Cronyism and its rationalizing profits over people group-think roared on, unchallenged.
In the 1990s, a woman of integrity and intelligence named Brooksley Born was appointed to the Commodity Futures and Trading Commission by Clinton. She recognized how disastrous not regulating derivatives would be for the citizenry and fought for transparency. But the big boys and girls of business and the big boys and girls on both sides of the aisle in government smacked her down hard. Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, Arthur Levitt, Larry Summers and Sen. Phil Gramm most notably. Greenspan at one point even patted her hand and told her not to fret about fraud. That it was self-correcting. Born meanwhile was literally having nightmares about derivatives. Born fought hard but a cronied-up Congress went as far as to pass a law in 2000 specifically preventing regulation of the derivatives. In other words, Brooksley and the citizenry, zip, rat bastard American economic rapists, a gadzillion.
By the 2000s, the financial industry was dominated by five investment banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Bear Stearns), two financial conglomerates (Citigroup, J.P. Morgan), three securitized insurance companies (AIG, MBIA, AMBAC) and three rating agencies (Moody’s, Standard & Poors, Fitch) -- all linked by the securitization food chain. Under this system, lenders sold mortgages to investment banks, which bundled them with other loans and debts into complex derivatives called collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which they in turn sold to investors. Rating agencies gave many CDOs AAA ratings ("triple A", or top, ratings). Subprime loans, preferred due to their higher interest rates, lead to massive predatory lending. Many home owners were given loans they could never repay.
By the way, these are the SAME rating agencies that have such credibility now (????) causing a sh*tload of economic trouble for us?
Moving along, we then had the housing bubble explode. According to Wikipedia in 10 years mortgage lending shot from $30 billion to $600 billion. The slick little gaming of “credit default swaps” apparently guaranteed unscrupulous lenders for their losses -- in fact, rewarded them for inappropirate lending. AIG was one of the main perpetrators of such subprime mortgage lending fraud. (AIG that required how much of the eventual $14 trillion total bail out money?)
Wikipedia on what happened when the cirsis hit:
By this time, warnings were being sounded by advisors to the Federal Reserve (the Fed) and the FBI, which was seeing a rise in mortgage fraud. Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and author Charles R. Morris sounded public warnings. The market for CDOs collapsed and investment banks were left with hundreds of billions of dollars in loans, CDOs and real estate they could not unload. What would later be called the Great Recession had begun (November 2007). In March 2008, Bear Stearns ran out of cash. On September 7, 2008, the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which had been on the brink of collapse. Two days later, Lehman Brothers collapsed.
These entities all had AA or AAA ratings within days of being bailed out by the Fed. Fed Board governor Frederic Mishkin had bailed from the Fed a month before the entire investment banking industry began sinking fast, imperiling the global financial system. Merrill Lynch was now on the edge of collapse and was acquired by Bank of America. Over the September 13-14 weekend, Paulson and Timothy Geithner (president of the New York Federal Reserve) called an emergency meeting of the major bank CEOs to rescue Lehman. The decision was that Lehman must go into bankruptcy, which resulted in a collapse of the commercial paper market. On September 17, the insolvent AIG was taken over by the government. The next day, Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke asked Congress for $700 billion to bail out the banks.
The global financial system was now paralyzed with no one able to borrow money. On October 4, 2008, President George Bush signed the $700 billion bailout bill, but global stock markets continued to fall. Layoffs and foreclosures continued with unemployment rising to 10% in the U.S. and the European Union. The recession accelerated and globalized. By December 2008, GM and Chrysler also faced bankruptcy. More than 10 million migrant workers in China lost their jobs. Foreclosures in the U.S. reached unprecedented levels, highlighted by such scenes as the tent city of evictees in Pinellas County, Florida.
So where are we now? The citizen-victims of the gang-raping? Struggling with low income, mounting debt and/or joblessness. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness had a nice ring to it once upon a time, did it not?
The dual rise of the U.S. financial sector and American information technology have been accompanied by the decline of heavy industry and manufacturing in the country. U.S. factory workers were laid off by the tens of thousands. Bush’s tax cuts - designed by Hubbard - have exacerbated the nation’s inequality of wealth, which is now worse than in any other developed country. In response, workers work longer hours and go into debt. "For the first time in history, average Americans have less education and are less prosperous than their parents".
You’ve read the statistics on the escalation of wealth for the tiny but powerful economic raping elite. As for Obama, and most of Congress, and the highest profile people in academia, the Wall Street criminals remain their BFFs. TOGETHER, they ALL constitute a shameless, sociopathic gang of economic rapists!
People ask me why I sometimes identify myself as a “N-O-T-A” (“None of the Above”) Voter when it comes to the two legacy parties. I endorse the Green Party. It espouses my values. It does not advocate for, enable or participate in economic gang rape. Simple as that. Why would I give my vote to an economic rapist?
Both traditional parties and the present administration offer NO HOPE for REGULATION or TRANSPARENCY. The media kabuki drama and propaganda of faux-progress just enable the economic gang rapes to continue. The declarations that the citizens must sacrifice more and more to enable the trickling-up of tax-money and debt usury interest is INSULTING AND MOLESTING!
The “inside job” of continuing fraud can not be stopped from the inside. The insiders are the ones who perpetrated it. Glass Steagall, again, was put in place so another 1929-type crash would not happen. The country wasn’t broken economically when it was repealed. But the bastards of the universe, smartest guys and gals in the room presumably, well, the most amoral at least, decided to pretend to "fix" the country by breaking it (removing Glass Steagall) for short term obscene profit-making. They and their seduced government officials and academics have brought hell down on the heads of Americans and the rest of the globe, for that matter.
We have and have had laws that honored justice, values and ethics. We have and have had non-sell out representatives and business-people and academics who were committed to the common good. We need to enable them and/or get them back into power.
We need to recognize just how betrayed we are and have been and exactly by whom!