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Friday, April 12, 2013

Den of Thieves
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

"People, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the Free Market system." - Barack Obama, Commander in Chief for Chief Executive Officers, February, 2010

     The day after submitting his 2014 budget proposal to Congress that included a vastly unpopular and completely unnecessary Chained CPI that essentially capped the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustments) for Social Security recipients, it was quietly revealed that this had occurred:
     President Obama met at the White House Thursday morning with a group of top Wall Street chief executives as part of the administration’s efforts to forge better relations with the industry and enlist them in efforts to sell his fiscal proposals.
     The CEO group included Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, John Stumpf of Wells Fargo, Bob Benmosche of AIG and several others.
     Now, I don't know about you but the optics alone ought to make every person who'd voted for Obama last November puke blood or go into a catatonic state of sticker shock. The very fact that this meeting between Barack Obama and a list of executives that reads like what the SEC's Top Ten Most Wanted list should sound like taking place in the Roosevelt Room of the White House should've made poor FDR spin and aerate the soil within 100 yards of his grave.
     Let's take another, closer look at some of those names and institutions, virtually all of whom had received billions in bailout money, the second half of which being pushed through under Obama's so-called watch:

  • Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs: Goldman's received $10 billion in bailout money it plainly didn't need on the strength of the Wall Street giant having a slightly off fiscal quarter. I hope we all still remember who pushed for Goldman's to get a slice of the pie stolen right off America's window sill: Former Goldman's CEO and Chairman Hank Paulson. Not long after, it was all but proven Goldman had sold (or, rather, short-sold) toxic bundled mortgages then, even as they were selling them to banks for billions, was actually betting on which ones would fail. Blankfein later testily testified before Congress three years ago and refused to accept any culpability for what had happened on his so-called watch or even that any illegal shenanigans had occurred.

  • Old Obama pal Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan, under whose own dubious watch the bank had lost between $6-9 billion thanks to the London whale scandal, money laundering schemes with Mexican drug cartels and possibly Russian mobsters, failing to report transactions over $10,000 (a violation of the Bank Secrecy/Anti Money Act) to regulatory agencies and shipping a billion dollars in gold bullion to Iran, a nation named, rightly or wrongly, by our State Department as engaging in terrorist activities. 

  • The petulant Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, who was "incensed" that the proles were saying mean, nasty things about bankers after it had come out that his own bank was literally stealing from people homes that didn't belong to them and for them not concentrating on all the good things they do. That would be the same BoA that's also illegally ignoring the terms of a multi-state agreement designed to assist homeowners. And this is just the tip of an iceberg of corruption, high crimes and misdemeanors for which there seems to be no end (.pdf file), which doesn't include news last month of another scummy collusive deal between the NY Fed and BoA. 
  •  Michael Corbat, the new CEO of Citigroup since last October, succeeding Vikram Pandit, a guy who was to Citigroup's stock price what Typhoid Mary was like to the health of New York City. Pandit, despite treating the bank's stock like the fat guy over the carnival's dunk tank, got a golden parachute worth nearly $16 million. Citi immediately responded to the crisis by putting 11,000 non-executives out of work. Citi also paid the government almost $300,000,000 in another settlement for pulling a Goldman's and betting against toxic CDO's while lying to investors.
  • James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, another eight figure a year CEO. Morgan Stanley shelled out a mere bag o' shells ($500,000) to the SEC for lying to its clients in its Nashville, TN office. Late last year, my home state of Massachusetts fined MS $5,000,000 for coaching Facebook executive scum such as Mark Zuckerberg on how to reveal certain information to certain "preferred investors" while essentially lying to lesser shareholders (Are we seeing a pattern here?).  And, around the same time as that, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs agreed to pay over half a billion in settlements for essentially fucking over homeowners and abusing the foreclosure process.
  •  Randian and George Zimmerman apologist Bob Benmosche of AIG, the recipient of the hugest bailout in galactic history ($182,000,000,000 over three installments) after it was caught with its own hands in the cookie jar in perhaps the most egregious credit-default swap scandal of all time. Its former CEO, Mo Greenberg, recently threatened to sue the US government because it didn't make enough money off the bailout, a lawsuit that was seriously considered by the AIG board before it was voted down.

  • "Yeah, I hear you but I only listen to CEO's." 
          Then there's this:
         Among the topics discussed in the Roosevelt Room at the White House were immigration, cybersecurity, the long-term fiscal outlook for the country, and the stability of the financial system. The Forum executives also stressed measures to boost the housing recovery, skills training, and clean energy initiatives, according to a White House official.
          Now, why Obama would want to talk behind locked doors about an almost entirely non-financial issue like immigration with such disingenuous company boggles the imagination but this seems to be conclusive proof that Obama, a man who is surely as much a part of Wall Street as the bull statue, is skeeving his own legitimate advisors and handing those duties off to the people that have done much more damage to this country than any Pakistani woman or child killed by drone strikes, Bradley Manning or anyone else who's not as well connected as Dimon, Blankfein and the others making up this ad hoc council.
         But so as not to give you the impression that he's not listening to you, the President will consent to entertain the concerns of the little people via Reddit or some other forum during a tightly controlled 30 minute chat session where he'll pretend to listen to you.
         To boil it down to the bare bones, Obama's essentially saying, "I hear you but I listen only to CEO's."
         Because only the rich know what's going on and, unfortunately, that's more true than any of us know. After all, they knew what they were doing to this country long before the pasture hit the JPL wind tunnel back in the fall of 2008. We know Obama was funded largely through Wall Street even as the MSM was swooning over him and telling us his campaign was largely floated through a million little donations from a million little people as opposed to the relatively few but huge sums vacuumed up by Hillary Clinton.
         And if looked as if Obama wasn't bought as completely by Wall Street during his re-election bid last year, well, you have Citizen's United to thank for that. That would be the same Citizen's United SCOTUS ruling that Obama publicly lambasted during a State of the Union Address, the same Citizen's United ruling that essentially said corporations can give unlimited amounts of money to candidates under the guise of "free speech" without having their identity made known. That would be the same Citizen's United ruling that Obama used to its maximum advantage as did Mitt Romney.
         If you want to know what a real Democrat and a real American sounds like, watch this video of Elizabeth Warren grilling federal bank "regulators" who were forced to admit they were shielding the same banks that Obama was entertaining at the White House at that same exact moment by not revealing the exact number of times each bank had broken the law regarding their foreclosure practices.
         Anyone masochistic enough to go back and view Warren's fiery speech promoting the Obama campaign to the high heavens yet perspicacious enough to listen to what our senior Senator's been saying since taking office will see a slowly but surely developing divide between her and the administration she was forced to pimp for during the Democratic convention. Warren's come out against the Chained CPI that Obama inexplicably but cruelly inserted into his 2014 budget proposal and she's forcefully endorsed a much more significant minimum wage increase than the Obama administration would ever dare propose to minority Republicans.
         While it's important that we vote for the right people in next year's midterm, much more will be at stake in the 2016 general election. The same people who still for unfathomable reasons support Obama are even now gathering steam for a Hillary Clinton run for the White House. That would be the same Hillary Clinton who surrounded herself with almost as many lobbyists as John McCain in 2008 and led Obama by the hand to the Bilderberg Group meeting that year.
         Warren would be a much better fit in the White House for progressives and others who actually care about the plight of the poor, the working poor and the middle class (who are increasingly getting squeezed by Wall St. and this administration into one writhing mass) than an elderly Clinton who will surely maintain the friendships on Wall Street that Obama has so carefully cultivated.
         And if you want another reason why you should vote for Warren for president in 2016, consider this: On November 11, 2007, Obama said to Tim Russert on Meet the Press, "I believe that cutting benefits is not the right answer." While on her own campaign trail through Massachusetts last year, Elizabeth Warren consistently rejected any attempts to limit Social Security benefits for elderly and handicapped recipients. On her campaign website, she'd written, "Social Security is a promise made to our seniors and it would be a breach of trust - and just plain poor economic policy - to jeopardize this program with unnecessary cuts or risky privatization schemes." What's the difference between the two?
         Warren's putting her money where her mouth is. Obama's putting our money where Wall Street's collective gaping mouth is.
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