Tag Archives: barack obama

Populist Revolution? How a Bold New Voter Coalition Can Reshape the Nation

By Marshall Auerback
Cross-Posted from AlterNet.org

Minorities, independent women, gays, working-class white voters, and younger people overcame through high turnout a fierce social conservative block.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Tuesday’s election will be regarded as a pivotal one in US history. For 30 years the top 1 percent has manipulated the masses to vote against their own interests. It was able to do that because the feelings of the white middle and lower classes about social issues overwhelmed their economic considerations.

But something interesting happened this year: high levels of minority and young voter turnout, together with an increased Obama-tilt among all voters earning less than $50,000 a year, routed the GOP. In one sense, the election represents the triumph of the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his “Rainbow Coalition.” The Reverend Jackson was the first serious challenge of a black man for the presidency, and with his Rainbow Coalition, he ran for the Democratic nomination in 1984 and in 1988, with a platform that represented an anthology of progressive ideas from the 1960s. He attracted a large number of supporters, many of them from the white working-class. Each time his movement looked like it was gaining electoral traction, the Democratic Party establishment would invariably mobilize against him and elect feeble white liberals – Mondale and Dukakis – who plummeted to defeat by Reagan and George Bush Sr. Continue reading

Dante’s Divine Comedy: Banksters Edition

By William K. Black
(Cross-posted from Benzinga)

Sixty Minutes’ December 11, 2011 interview of President Obama included a claim by Obama that, unfortunately, did not lead the interviewer to ask the obvious, essential follow-up questions.

“I can tell you, just from 40,000 feet, that some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street, in some cases, some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street, wasn’t illegal.”

Obama did not explain what Wall Street behavior he found least ethical or what unethical Wall Street actions he believed was not illegal. It would have done the world (and Obama) a great service had he been asked these questions. He would not have given a coherent answer because his thinking on these issues has never been coherent. If he had to explain his position he, and the public, would recognize it was indefensible. I offer the following scale of unethical banker behavior related to fraudulent mortgages and mortgage paper (principally collateralized debt obligations (CDOs)) that is illegal and deserved punishment. I write to prompt the rigorous analytical discussion that is essential to expose and end Obama and Bush’s “Presidential Amnesty for Contributors” (PAC) doctrine. The financial industry is the leading campaign contributor to both parties and those contributions come overwhelmingly from the wealthiest officers – the one-tenth of one percent that thrives by being parasites on the 99 percent.

I have explained at length in my blogs and articles why:

  • Only fraudulent home lenders made liar’s loans 
  • Liar’s loans were endemically fraudulent 
  • Lenders and their agents put the lies in liar’s loans 
  • Appraisal fraud was endemic and led by lenders and their agents 
  • Liar’s loans could only be sold through fraudulent reps and warranties 
  • CDOs “backed” by liar’s loans were inherently fraudulent 
  • CDOs backed by liar’s loans could only be sold through fraudulent reps and warranties 
  • Liar’s loans hyper-inflated the bubble 
  • Liar’s loans became roughly one-third of mortgage originations by 2006

Each of these frauds is a conventional fraud that could be prosecuted under existing laws. Hundreds of lenders and over a hundred thousand loan brokers were “accounting control frauds” specializing largely in making fraudulent liar’s loans. My prior work explains control fraud, why accounting is the “weapon on choice” for fraudulent financial firms, and why liar’s loans were superior “ammunition” for committing massive accounting fraud. These accounting control frauds caused greater direct financial losses than any other crime epidemic in history. They also drove the financial crisis that produced the Great Recession and cost millions of Americans their jobs.

In considering my scale of unethical conduct it is important to keep in mind that it is highly likely that anyone that causes very large numbers of people to lose their homes will cause multiple suicides and indirect deaths that arise from the greater vulnerability of the homeless and the blue collar crime effects of destroying neighborhoods inherent to widespread foreclosures. I ignore for this purpose the fact that the fraudulent loans caused the bubble to hyper-inflate and drove the financial crisis that caused millions of people to lose their jobs. The financial accounting control frauds are the weapons of mass destruction of wealth, employment, and happiness. I also ignore the fact that the frauds described here made the perpetrators wealthy. My scale, therefore, systematically and dramatically understates the perpetrators’ moral turpitude. I have also excluded the massive foreclosure frauds from my scale because they did not cause the underlying crisis. When Obama reveals the bankers actions he claims to be legal but highly unethical readers should keep my conscious understatement of the moral depravity of the illegal acts by bankers that drove this crisis in mind when they compare the relative ethical failings.

As a criminologist, I do not favor sentencing criminals to the fates they richly deserve. I would never torture prisoners or place them at risk of assault, rape, or psychological trauma. I do not believe that extremely longer terms of imprisonment are desirable except in rare circumstances. As a lawyer and a criminologist I emphasize that any sentence should come only after a conviction in a trial providing due process protections or a guilty plea.My scale provides a label for the comparative moral depravity of the perpetrator, the deserved punishment (which when vicious is not the far more humane one I would actually impose), and a brief description of the specific frauds that are characteristic of this level of immorality and the number of perpetrators falling in each category. My inspiration was Dante’s circles of hell as described in his Divine Comedy.

The Scale of Ethical Depravity by the Frauds that Drove the Ongoing Crisis

Level 10: Septic tank scum

Eternal Hell: these banksters deserve a physical hell of infinite torment and duration

 Officers that directed control frauds that involved making predatory loans to more than 10,000 homeowners who lost their homes as the result of the frauds. Predatory loans in this context mean deliberately seeking out the elderly or minorities for such loans because they were easier to con into taking loans they could not repay – at a premium yield (interest rate). Dozens of CEOs fall in this category.

Level 9: Pond scum

Time in Hell:  These banksters deservea term in hell

Officers that directed control frauds that led to more than 10,000homeowners losing their homes.  Hundredsof CEOs fall in this category.

Level 8:  Generic scum

Gitmo:  Hell’s starkest suburb

Officers that directed control frauds that led to more than 1,000 homeownerslosing their homes.  Thousands of CEOsfall in this category.

Level 7:  Dante’s deserved denizens

Supermax:   No view, and no way out

The professionals that aided and abetted the overall control frauds byinflating appraisals, giving “clean” audit opinions to fraudulent financialstatements, “AAA” ratings to toxic waste, and accommodating legal opinions tothe frauds.  Thousands of professionalsfall in this category.

Level 6:  Aspiring to great wealththrough fraud 

Alcatraz:  Great view, but no way out

The senior lieutenants of the control frauds who committed the frauds thatcaused more than 10,000 homeowners to lose their homes.  Thousands of senior officers fall in thiscategory.

Level 5:  A large cog in a smallerfraud

Generic Hardcore Prison:  A life ofboredom and the almost total loss of freedom

The senior lieutenants of the control frauds who committed the frauds thatcaused more than 1,000 homeowners to lose their homes.   Thousands of senior officers fall in thiscategory.

Level 4:  The banksters who cost usour money instead of our homes – Goldman Sachs & friends

Generic Prison:  A life of boredom anda severe loss of freedom

The officers that led the control frauds who targeted their customers forthe purchase of more than $10 million in fraudulent product.  Dozens of officers fall in this category.

Level 3:  The banksters’ seniorlieutenants who cost us our money instead of our homes

Prisons designed for serious, but less physically dangerous felons

The senior officers of the control frauds who targeted their customers forthe purchase of more than $10 million in fraudulent product.  Scores of senior officers fall in thiscategory.

Level 2:  Banksters who defraudedother bankers (who were willing to be defrauded)

Privatized prisons:  Let them enjoythe consequences of their odes to privatization

The largest control frauds sold tens of billions of dollars of fraudulentloans to each other through fraudulent “reps and warranties.”  The kicker here, as Charles Calomiris hasemphasized, is that the control frauds on both sides of the transactions knew thatthey were engaged in a mutual fraud. Hundreds of senior officers fall in this category.

Level 1:  Small fraudulent fry

Catch and release:  Convict them andput them on probation if they cooperate with the investigations

The small fry are the loan officers, loan broker employees, and borrowerswho knowingly participated in making fraudulent mortgage loans.  Over 100,000 individuals fall in thiscategory.

We Need to End the PAC Doctrine

To date, Bush and Obama have prosecuted none of the mortgage frauds in the top nine levels. I urge reporters to ask him to explain three things about his statements to 60 Minutes.

  • Why are there no prosecutions of the felons that drove the crisis and occupy the nine worst rungs of unethical and destructive acts?
  • Explain the five unethical acts by elite financial institutions that you consider the most destructive and least ethical – but which you believe to be legal. How do you rank the degree of unethical conduct and destruction in those acts?
  • What specific statutory provisions did you propose to make those five unethical acts illegal? As enacted, which provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act made those five unethical acts illegal? Who has been prosecuted for those formerly legal but seriously unethical and destructive acts that were made illegal by the Dodd-Frank Act?

Reporters will have to be persistent in coordinating their follow-up questions to get Obama to provide direct answers to these questions.

I request that private citizens write President Obama to ask him to provide specific, written answers to these three questions. I will be proposing a series of questions that I will urge citizens to demand answers to because it is clear that the regular media will rarely ask demanding questions of elite politicians or bankers. It is up to us to hold them accountable and end the doctrine of Presidential Amnesty for Contributors.

Bill Black is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He spent years working on regulatory policy and fraud prevention as Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention, Litigation Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and Deputy Director of the National Commission on Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enforcement, among other positions.

Bill writes a column for Benzinga every Monday. His other academic articles, congressional testimony, and musings about the financial crisis can be found at his Social Science Research Network author page and at the blog New Economic Perspectives.

Follow him on Twitter: @WilliamKBlack

Don’t Let Him Get Away With It

The Politics of Deception

By Michael Hudson
(Cross-posted from Counterpunch)

The seeds for President Obama’s demagogic press conference on Thursday were planted last summer when he assigned his right-wing Committee of 13 the role of resolving the obvious and inevitable Congressional budget standoff by forging an anti-labor policy that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and uses the savings to bail out banks from even more loans that will go bad as a result of the IMF-style austerity program that Democrats and Republicans alike have agreed to back.

The problem facing Mr. Obama is obvious enough: How can he hold the support of moderates and independents (or as Fox News calls them, socialists and anti-capitalists), students and labor, minorities and others who campaigned so heavily for him in 2008? He has double-crossed them – smoothly, with a gentle smile and patronizing patter talk, but with an iron determination to hand federal monetary and tax policy over to his largest campaign contributors: Wall Street and assorted special interests’ cash. The Democratic Party’s Rubinomics and Clintonomics core operators, plus smooth Bush Administration holdovers such as Tim Geithner, not to mention quasi-Cheney factotums in the Justice Department.

President Obama’s solution has been to do what any political demagogue does: Come out with loud populist campaign speeches that have no chance of becoming the law of the land, while more quietly giving his campaign contributors what they’ve paid him for: giveaways to Wall Street, tax cuts for the wealthy (euphemized as tax “exemptions” and mark-to-model accounting, plus an agreement to count “income” as “capital gains” taxed at a much lower rate).

So here’s the deal the Democratic leadership has made with the Republicans. The Republicans will run someone from their present gamut of guaranteed losers, enabling Mr. Obama to run as the “voice of reason,” as if this somehow is Middle America. This will throw the 2012 election his way for a second term if he adopts their program – a set of rules paid for by the leading campaign contributors to both parties.

President Obama’s policies have not been the voice of reason. They are even further to the right than George W. Bush could have achieved. At least a Republican president would have confronted a Democratic Congress blocking the kind of program that Mr. Obama has rammed through. But the Democrats seem stymied when it comes to standing up to a president who ran as a Democrat rather than the Tea Partier he seems to be so close to in his ideology.

So here’s where the Committee of 13 comes into play. Given (1) the agreement that if the Republicans and Democrats do NOT agree on Mr. Obama’s dead-on-arrival “job-creation” ploy, and (2) Republican House Leader Boehner’s statement that his party will reject the populist rhetoric that President Obama is voicing these days, then (3) the Committee will wield its ax to cut federal social spending in keeping with its professed ideology.

President Obama signaled this long in advance, at the outset of his administration when he appointed his Deficit Reduction Commission headed by former Republican Sen. Simpson and Rubinomics advisor to the Clinton administration Bowles to recommend how to cut federal social spending while giving even more money away to Wall Street. He confirmed suspicions of a sellout by reappointing bank lobbyist Tim Geithner to the Treasury, and tunnel-visioned Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve Board.

Yet on Wednesday, October 4, the president tried to represent the OccupyWallStreet movement as support for his efforts. He pretended to endorse a pro-consumer regulator to limit bank fraud, as if he had not dumped Elizabeth Warren on the advice of Mr. Geithner – who seems to be settling into the role of bagman for campaign contributors from Wall Street.

Can President Obama get away with it? Can he jump in front of the parade and represent himself as a friend of labor and consumers while his appointees support Wall Street and his Committee of 13 is waiting in the wings to perform its designated function of guillotining Social Security?

When I visited the OccupyWallStreet site on Wednesday, it was clear that the disgust with the political system went so deep that there is no single set of demands that can fix a system so fundamentally broken and dysfunctional. One can’t paste-up a regime that is impoverishing the economy, accelerating foreclosures, pushing state and city budgets further into deficit and forcing cuts in social spending.

The situation is much like that from Iceland to Greece: Governments no longer represent the people. They represent predatory financial interests that are impoverishing the economy. This is not democracy. It is financial oligarchy. And oligarchies do not give their victims a voice.

So the great question is, where do we go from here? There’s no solvable path within the way that the economy and the political system is structured these days. Any attempt to come up with a neat “fix-it” plan can only be suggesting bandages for what looks like a fatal political-economic wound.

The Democrats are as much a part of the septic disease as the Republicans. Other countries face a similar problem. The Social Democratic regime in Iceland is acting as the party of bankers, and its government’s approval rating has fallen to 12 percent. But they refuse to step down. So earlier last week, voters brought steel oil drums to their own Occupation outside the Althing and banged when the Prime Minister started to speak, to drown out her advocacy of the bankers (and foreign vulture bankers at that!).

Likewise in Greece, the demonstrators are showing foreign bank interests that any agreement the European Central Bank makes to bail out French and German bondholders at the cost of increasing taxes on Greek labor (but not Greek property and wealth) cannot be viewed as democratically entered into. Hence, any debts that are claimed, and any real estate or public enterprises given sold off to the creditor powers under distress conditions, can be reversed once voters are given a democratic voice in whether to impose a decade of poverty on the country and force emigration.

That is the spirit of civil disobedience that is growing in this country. It is a quandary – that is, a problem with no solution. All that one can do under such conditions is to describe the disease and its symptoms. The cure will follow logically from the diagnosis. The role of OccupyWallStreet is to diagnose the financial polarization and corruption of the political process that extends right into the Supreme Court, the Presidency, and Mr. Obama’s soon-to-be notorious Committee of 13 once the happy-smoke settles from his present pretensions.