Thursday, April 22, 2010

'The SEC is a farce'

'The SEC is a farce' - Bill Black:

"The SEC is a farce. And it's been a farce for a decade ... We got over 1,000 felony convictions in the Savings and Loan debacle of senior insiders. We have zero today -- of any of the senior lenders in non-prime. That's just an astonishing thing. There have been no criminal charges yet in this crisis. That's the dog that hasn't barked. Where is the Justice Department?

Partisan GOP hacks say the financial crisis was caused by too much regulation, and government interference in the markets.

But Glass-Steagall was repealed, derivatives were left unregulated, and the regulators were watching porn instead of preventing fraud. Giant banks, hedge funds and other fat cat private players knowingly gamed the market and committed fraud in more ways than can be listed in a single post.

And remember, even the "father of economics" - Adam Smith - didn't believe in completely unfettered free markets.

On the other hand, partisan Democratic party hacks say that bad corporations caused the crisis, and that if more power is given to Summers, Bernanke, Geithner and the other governmental honchos, they'll fix everything.

But Summers, Bernanke, Geithner and the other meatheads largely caused the crisis through their actions. And as Simon Johnson points out, the government created the mega-giants, and they are not the product of free market competition.

As pointed out in February 2009, government fraud is pervasive:

In case you believe that there are only "a couple of bad apples" in the United States, here is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of corruption by leading pillars of American society:

  • Senior military officials stole approximately $125 billion dollars out of Iraq reconstruction funds, dwarfing Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme (in turn, the looting which is now occurring under the bailout/stimulus programs will far surpass $150 billion)
  • The government-endorsed ratings agencies which were supposed to accurately rate the credit-worthiness of companies and nations committed massive fraud

There are hundreds of similar stories of corruption which have come out recently.

But surely government employees would have done something to stop such corruption if had known about it, right?

Well, actually:

  • Instead of insisting on accurate books, the government encouraged fraudulent bookkeeping. For example, as of 2006:
    "President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar ... broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations."
  • The government knew about mortgage fraud a long time ago. For example, the FBI warned of an "epidemic" of mortgage fraud in 2004. However, the FBI, DOJ and other government agencies then stood down and did nothing. See this and this
These are just some of the many examples of the government aiding and abetting corruption.

A lot has come out since then about Geithner, Bernanke, and other officials. See this, this, this, this, this and this.

Indeed, government employees are mainly using their time in office to feather their own nests, rather than to do anything constructive.

So let's cut the partisan crap.

Both the fat cat players and the government are to blame for the financial crisis, and we need to rein in corruption and fraud in both....

With most political commentators spewing right wing garbage, it's always been refreshing to hear the intelligence and understanding of Bill Moyers...

BILL MOYERS: You've no doubt figured out my bias by now. I've hardly kept it a secret. In this regard, I take my cue from the late Edward R. Murrow, the Moses of broadcast news.

Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don't try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don't mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy.

Plutocracy is not an American word but it's become an American phenomenon. Back in the fall of 2005, the Wall Street giant Citigroup even coined a variation on it, plutonomy, an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer with government on their side. By the next spring, Citigroup decided the time had come to publicly "bang the drum on plutonomy."

And bang they did, with an "equity strategy" for their investors, entitled, "Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer." Here are some excerpts:

"Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper...[and] take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years..."

"...the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the US-- the plutonomists in our parlance-- have benefited disproportionately from the recent productivity surge in the US...[and] from globalization and the productivity boom, at the relative expense of labor."

"...[and they] are likely to get even wealthier in the coming years. [Because] the dynamics of plutonomy are still intact."

And so they were, before the great collapse of 2008. And so they are, today, after the fall. While millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings, the plutonomists are doing just fine. In some cases, even better, thanks to our bailout of the big banks which meant record profits and record bonuses for Wall Street.

Now why is this? Because over the past 30 years the plutocrats, or plutonomists — choose your poison — have used their vastly increased wealth to capture the flag and assure the government does their bidding. Remember that Citigroup reference to "market-friendly governments" on their side? It hasn't mattered which party has been in power — government has done Wall Street's bidding.

Don't blame the lobbyists, by the way; they are simply the mules of politics, delivering the drug of choice to a political class addicted to cash — what polite circles call "campaign contributions" and Tony Soprano would call "protection."

This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet. According to a study from the Pew Research Center last month, nine out of ten Americans give our national economy a negative rating. Eight out of ten report difficulty finding jobs in their communities, and seven out of ten say they experienced job-related or financial problems over the past year.

So it is that like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy.

Now we have come to another parting of the ways, and once again the fate and character of our country are up for grabs.

So along with Jim Hightower and Iowa's concerned citizens, and many of you, I am biased: democracy only works when we claim it as our own.

Moyers will be terribly missed. His integrity and his intelligence set him apart from the rest of the press pack....

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