Author Archives: William Black

Bank Whistleblowers United Told DOJ to use 4506-T as Kryptonite v Banksters

Steven Krystofiak Warned the Fed 12 Years Ago

By William K. Black
August 6, 2018     Bloomington, MN

Steven Krystofiak formed the Mortgage Brokers Association for Responsible Lending, a professional association dedicated to fighting mortgage fraud and predation.  On August 1, 2006.  He tried to save our Nation by issuing one of the most prescient warnings about the epidemic of mortgage fraud and predation and the crisis it would so cause.

The context was Congress’ effort to empower and convince the Federal Reserve to take action against what the mortgage lending industry called, behind closed doors, “liar’s” loans.  A liar’s loan is a loan in which the lender does not verify (at least) the borrower’s actual income.  The industry knew that the failure to verify inherently led to endemic fraud.  George Akerlof and Paul Romer’s 1993 article on “Looting” by financial CEOs explicitly cited the failure to verify the borrower’s income as an example of a lending practice that only fraudulent lenders would use on a widespread basis.

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How Democratic Party Mendacity about Deficits and Banksters Lifted Trump

By William K. Black
August 2, 2018     Bloomington, MN

Peter Suderman, the managing editor at Reason.com (hard right) has published an op ed in the New York Times entitled “How Republican Hypocrisy Lifts Social Democrats.”  His subtitle is “By its astoundingly cynical approach to deficits and debt, the G.O.P. has opened the door to an expansive left.”  What is actually astounding is that Suderman never mentions, much less discusses; the situations in which a Nation with a sovereign currency should run deficits.

Stephanie Kelton and I have been trying hard to keep Democrats from, again, rushing into the trap of denouncing Republicans for running federal deficits.  Yes, Republicans are hypocrites about debt and deficits.  That does not mean that Democrats should repeat Clinton and Obama’s embrace of the Republican’s economically illiterate, harmful, and fake hysteria about debt and deficits.  Suderman makes an acute observation about why Republicans pretend to embrace deficit hysteria.

Through their actions, [Republicans] have proven that they cared about the deficit primarily for its usefulness as a political cudgel, an easy way to curtail Democratic policy goals.

My ‘friendly amendment’ would remove the word “primarily” from that sentence.

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Mankiw Whiffs on “Learning the Right Lessons from the Financial Crisis”

By William K. Black
July 31, 2018     Bloomington, MN

I am writing a major article on myths about the causes of the financial crisis, so I read with special interest N. Gregory Mankiw’s column “Learning the Right Lessons From the Financial Crisis.”  (HT: DCJ.)  The context of Mankiw’s article, as he appropriately discloses, is to do a favor for a friend by plugging the friend’s new book in Mankiw’s column in the New York Times.  I have no criticism of that purpose and applaud him for alerting readers to it.  The problem is substance, both the book’s and his column.

Mankiw is the leading author of economic textbooks in the world, so his views and his ideology are enormously influential.  The first sentence of his book review asks the right question:  “What caused the financial crisis of 2008?”  The remarkable thing is that he never attempts to answer the question and does not explain how the book he is reviewing attempts to do so.

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Trump is the World’s Most “Expensive Lobbyist” for Google’s “Huge Antitrust” Problem

By William K. Black
July 22, 2018     Bloomington, MN

Trump’s language problems do not end with his double negatives and his endless contradictions of what he has just said or tweeted about Putin’s assault on our democracy.  Trump lies about everything, all the time.  His lies, however, frequently reveal the greater truth – he lives to betray America, his responsibilities as President, and his base.  One classic example is the illegal abuse of monopoly power used against Americans and people globally.  Trump has managed to embrace, contemporaneously, polar views on monopoly power – and both views are wrong.  That takes some doing.  One would think that taking opposite views would help you be right half the time.

Under United States law, the intentional abuse of monopoly power is both illegal and criminal.  Our Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can bring civil suits to stop the abuse and penalize it – including treble damages and orders to reduce greatly the monopoly power.  DOJ can also bring a criminal prosecution.  In the European Union (EU), such monopoly power abuses are generally only subject to civil sanctions and orders to reduce monopoly power.  (Some EU nations criminalize “hardcore” cartel actions.)  DOJ can prosecute either, or both, the firm and the officers involved in abusing the monopoly power.  EU nations often do not permit prosecutions of the firm even for cartels.

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The Three Impossible Things Trump’s Base Must Believe before Breakfast

By William K. Black
July 19, 2018     Bloomington, MN

The Republican Party, for over 70 years, did not simply oppose the Soviet Union; it demonized Democrats as ‘soft’ on Russia.  This history makes the Republican Party’s increasing embrace of Putin’s Russia particularly bizarre.

Forty percent of Republican’s now consider Russia “friendly” or an “ally” of the United States.  That percentage is nearly twice as large as in 2014 despite a large number of Russian attacks on the U.S. and the West (and Russians) since 2014.  Seventy-nine percent of Republicans had a positive response to Trump and Putin’s infamous (to most Americans) Helsinki press conference.

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Executive Coaching Achieves Miracle Success, and Self-Parody, at Nortel

By William K. Black
July 10, 2018     Bloomington, MN

Economists generally focus on increasing productivity as the driver of development.  Among the most troubling economic developments in the West in the last decade is the weak gains in productivity, particularly in a time of rapid technological advances.  Neoclassical economics pictures firms as engaged in a fierce, endless battle for survival where failure is certain for firms that are even slightly less efficient that their rivals.  This struggle is supposed to produce relentless, rapid advances in productivity.  Something has gone very wrong with the neoclassical narrative of competition, productivity, and growth.

Weak productivity and efficiency is supposed to remedy itself.  The neoclassical (and Austrian) economics claim is that it creates a profit opportunity for entrepreneurs to enter who either will run a more productive firm or serve as consultant to explain to existing firms’ CEOs the secret of improving efficiency.  This series of articles focuses on one of these supposed examples of Austrian “spontaneous order” – executive coaching.

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Kill the Hastert Rule: A Pedophile’s Indefensible Rule Harms America

By William K. Black
June 20, 2018     Kansas City, MO

The House Speaker is the answer to the trick question:  “Who is the second most powerful elected official in the United States.”  The importance of the Speaker is obvious to anyone with even a modestly sophisticated understanding of U.S. politics and government.

One of the reasons for this astonishing level of sycophancy of Republican House candidates that run for office by presenting themselves as moderate conservatives is the ‘Hastert rule.’  They run as moderates, but they vote consistently in favor of legislation that creates the most radically right policies in modern American history.  If you have never heard of the Hastert rule or do not know what it is, blame the Democrats (and the media).  The fact that the Hastert rule is not infamous with the public proves (again) the ineptness of Democrats as politicians (and the failure of most of the media as journalists).  The rule bears the name of then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who decreed and implemented the rule.  If you do not know that Hastert is infamous, and why he is infamous, blame the Democrats (and the media).

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Bitcoin Frauds Keep Growing

By William K. Black
June 18, 2018     Kansas City, MO

One of the prime myths that white-collar criminologists have to refute repeatedly is that blockchain makes fraud impossible.  Blockchain, in some settings, is a costly means of making some frauds much more difficult.  Blockchain is useless against the most important frauds.  The primitive worship of blockchain as a supposed garlic capable of warding off evil breeds complacency, and complacency produces increased fraud and greatly extends the life of fraud.

The difference between making fraud impossible and (in a few specialized settings) ‘much more difficult’ brings to mind the critical difference explained in The Princess Bride between ‘dead’ and ‘mostly dead.’  Blockchain is useless in stopping, for example, any or the three epidemics of ‘control fraud’ that drove the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession.  Lenders’ executives extorted appraisers to inflate appraised values of homes, creating a Gresham’s dynamic in which bad ethics tends to drive good ethics out of the markets and professions.  The second fraud epidemic in loan origination was ‘liar’s’ loans, which were designed to aid lenders and their agents to inflate the incomes of borrowers.  Note that both of these primary fraudulent loan origination schemes involve lenders deliberately seeking to provide false (inflated) data designed to inflate the market value of homes.  The third fraud epidemic that drove the U.S. financial crisis was the fraudulent sale of these mortgages to the secondary market through false “reps and warranties” about loan underwriting – principally the fraudulently inflated appraisal values and borrowers’ incomes.

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Democrats Should Reject Bernanke’s ‘Wily E. Coyote’ Criticism of Trump’s Deficits

By William K. Black
June 11, 2018     Kansas City, MO

Ben Bernanke recently gave a speech predicting that President Trump’s deficits will cause the economy to “go off a cliff in 2020.”  Many Democratic Party politicians, of course, will rush to embrace the criticism and prove that they are the true party of fiscal responsibility.  They can then get back to pushing for increased taxation and cuts to the safety net “to save it” from collapse – and feeling virtuous.  These Democrats will glory in their supposed virtue and gravitas as they oppose ‘excessive’ stimulus, cut the safety net to ‘save it,’ oh-so-judiciously cut funding for social programs, and push for higher taxes.  They know this is bad politics, but that adds to their faith that the more bitter the medicine the greater the curative properties.  Faith-based federal deficit phobia, however, is terrible economics and terrible politics.

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The New York Times Editorial Board’s Incoherence on Italian Austerity and the Euro

William K. Black
June 2, 2018     Bloomington, MN

(Third in a series of articles on Italy, Austerity, and the euro)

The New York Times’ editorial board published a May 29, 2018 editorial about Italy’s ongoing political and financial issues that praised austerity in Italy.  The board cheered the anti-democratic appointment of “Carlo Cottarelli, a solidly pro-Europe and pro-austerity economist and former official of the International Monetary Fund, to form a nonelected government.”  In particular, the board expressed its horror that Italy (which continues to have unemployment levels one expects to find in a severe recession) would have adopted “grandiose spending plans” (fiscal stimulus) if the Italian establishment had not sought to block the results of the recent Italian election.

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