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The American Prospect

Jamelle Bouie

May 2, 2012

The super wealthy apparently believe that they deserve constant deference.

Greg Sargent is rightfully stunned by the entitled petulance of Wall Street bankers who are shocked—shocked—that President Obama would do anything other than praise their indispensable brilliance:

Wall Streeters are so upset about Obama’s harsh populist rhetoric that they privately called on him to make amends with a big speech — like his oration on race — designed to heal the wounds of class warfare in this country. […]

Of course, their exaggerated weariness notwithstanding, the “wounds of class warfare” haven’t been borne by Wall Streeters, who remain fabulously wealthy even after causing the worst downturn since the Great Depression. If there’s anyone waging class warfare, it’s the radicalized representatives of the rich, who have successfully engineered government to enhance their wealth at the cost of our shared responsibilities. As such, the actual victims of class warfare are the ordinary Americans who face stagnant wages, rising costs, and a tattered safety net.

After going through the insanity of Wall Street complaints, Sargent ends his post on this note:

One wonders if there is anything Obama could say to make these people happy, short of declaring that rampant inequality is a good thing, in that it affirms the talent and industriousness of the deserving super rich. It certainly seems clear that they won’t be satisfied until he stops mentioning it at all. [Emphasis mine]

If you think the bolded section is an exaggeration, you should take some time to read Adam Davidson’s New York Times profile of Edward Conard, a former partner at Bain Capital—Mitt Romney’s investment fund—who now works as an apologist for the ultrawealthy. Conard believes three things. First, that millionaires and billionaires earned every penny of their wealth through merit and hard work:

God didn’t create the universe so that talented people would be happy,” he said. “It’s not beautiful. It’s hard work. It’s responsibility and deadlines, working till 11 o’clock at night when you want to watch your baby and be with your wife. It’s not serenity and beauty.”

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The Hill

By Peter Schroeder 03/18/12 05:30 AM ET

Democrats have co-opted a fiery resignation letter from a Goldman Sachs employee to argue for rigid rules on the financial sector.

Lawmakers say the letter from Greg Smith, published in The New York Times, is evidence that the reforms Congress passed in the wake of the financial crisis should be strictly implemented.

“This is ammunition for our argument,” said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who co-authored the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) entered the piece into the congressional record, calling it “an indication of why we need to continue our vigilance over this industry to make certain that the right market forces prevail.”

Goldman executives have pushed back against the widely read letter and defended the firm’s behavior and corporate culture.

Dems see ‘ammunition’ against Wall Street in Goldman resignation – The Hill’s On The Money.

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Wall Street Executives Thrive Under Obama But Still Won’t Support Him

Huff Post- First Posted: 01/30/2012  4:43 pm Updated: 02/ 2/2012  8:48 am

By- Jennifer Bendery

WASHINGTON — They bristled when he called them “fat cats.” They fought every step of the way, unsuccessfully, to prevent his financial reform bill from becoming law. And some who supported him in 2008 are now throwing their money at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

But for all their grumbling, Wall Street executives have fared exceptionally well under President Barack Obama. In fact, some of Wall Street’s highest earners are making as much now, if not more, than they did under President George W. Bush.

Take Wells Fargo president and CEO John Stumpf. He made $18.9 million in 2010, compared to $21.3 million in 2009, $13.8 million in 2008 and $12.6 million in 2007. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has also watched his paychecks fatten over the past three years: He took home $20.8 million in 2010, compared to $1.3 million in 2009 (when some bank executives took a pay cut because of the financial crisis), $19.7 million in 2008 and $27.8 million in 2007.

The list goes on. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein made $14.1 million in 2010, compared to $862,657 in 2009, $1.1 million in 2008 and $70.3 million in 2007. Bank of America president and CEO Brian Moynihan earned $10 million in 2010, compared to his predecessor Ken Lewis, who made $4.2 million in 2009, $9.9 million in 2008 and $24.8 million in 2007.

Even Vikram Pandit, the CEO of Citigroup who worked for two years for just $1 a year as a symbolic gesture after the financial crisis, was awarded a $23.2 million retention package in May 2011.

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The Corporate State Wins Again

Posted on Apr 25, 2011

truthdig

By Chris Hedges

When did our democracy die? When did it irrevocably transform itself into a lifeless farce and absurd political theater? When did the press, labor, universities and the Democratic Party—which once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible—wither and atrophy? When did reform through electoral politics become a form of magical thinking? When did the dead hand of the corporate state become unassailable?
The body politic was mortally wounded during the long, slow strangulation of ideas and priorities during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Its bastard child, the war on terror, inherited the iconography and language of permanent war and fear. The battle against internal and external enemies became the excuse to funnel trillions in taxpayer funds and government resources to the war industry, curtail civil liberties and abandon social welfare. Skeptics, critics and dissenters were ridiculed and ignored. The FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA enforced ideological conformity. Debate over the expansion of empire became taboo. Secrecy, the anointing of specialized elites to run our affairs and the steady intrusion of the state into the private lives of citizens conditioned us to totalitarian practices. Sheldon Wolin points out in “Democracy Incorporated” that this configuration of corporate power, which he calls “inverted totalitarianism,” is not like “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto,” the result of a premeditated plot. It grew, Wolin writes, from “a set of effects produced by actions or practices undertaken in ignorance of their lasting consequences.” 
Corporate capitalism—because it was trumpeted throughout the Cold War as a bulwark against communism—expanded with fewer and fewer government regulations and legal impediments. Capitalism was seen as an unalloyed good. It was not required to be socially responsible. Any impediment to its growth, whether in the form of trust-busting, union activity or regulation, was condemned as a step toward socialism and capitulation. Every corporation is a despotic fiefdom, a mini-dictatorship. And by the end Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs had grafted their totalitarian structures onto the state.
The Cold War also bequeathed to us the species of the neoliberal. The neoliberal enthusiastically embraces “national security” as the highest good.  The neoliberal—composed of the gullible and cynical careerists—parrots back the mantra of endless war and corporate capitalism as an inevitable form of human progress. Globalization, the neoliberal assures us, is the route to a worldwide utopia. Empire and war are vehicles for lofty human values. Greg Mortenson, the disgraced author of “Three Cups of Tea,” tapped into this formula. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan are ignored or dismissed as the cost of progress. We are bringing democracy to Iraq, liberating the women of Afghanistan, defying the evil clerics in Iran, ridding the world of terrorists and protecting Israel. Those who oppose us do not have legitimate grievances. They need to be educated. It is a fantasy. But to name our own evil is to be banished. 
We continue to talk about personalities—Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—although the heads of state or elected officials in Congress have become largely irrelevant. Lobbyists write the bills. Lobbyists get them passed. Lobbyists make sure you get the money to be elected. And lobbyists employ you when you get out of office. Those who hold actual power are the tiny elite who manage the corporations. Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their book “Winner-Take-All Politics,” point out that the share of national income of the top 0.1 percent of Americans since 1974 has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 percent. One in six American workers may be without a job. Some 40 million Americans may live in poverty, with tens of millions more living in a category called “near poverty.” Six million people may be forced from their homes because of foreclosures and bank repossessions. But while the masses suffer, Goldman Sachs, one of the financial firms most responsible for the evaporation of $17 trillion in wages, savings and wealth of small investors and shareholders, is giddily handing out $17.5 billion in compensation to its managers, including $12.6 million to its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

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Bill Moyers Journal March 27, 2009

BILL MOYERS: As you know, earlier this week Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner proposed a vast expansion of government authority that would crack down hard on Wall Street’s reckless behavior.

Just in time, it seems. You could almost hear the mob in the streets of Washington as he spoke. Popular anger was beginning to evoke unhappy images among Washington elites of the French Revolution, guillotine and all.

On the Op-Ed page of Sunday’s “Washington Post” William Greider, the veteran political reporter of four decades, suggested a glass half full. He wrote that the public’s rage “has great potential for restoring a functioning democracy. Timely intervention by the people could save the country from some truly bad ideas now circulating in Washington and on Wall Street.”

Perhaps no journalist better understands the intertwining twists and turns of government and money, the collision of capitalism and democracy, than William Greider. He wrote the definitive account of the Federal Reserve system, SECRETS OF THE TEMPLE. In the spirit of Thomas Paine he produced, WHO WILL TELL THE PEOPLE? Followed it with, THE SOUL OF CAPITALISM. And now, COME HOME, AMERICA: THE RISE AND FALL (AND REDEEMING PROMISE) OF OUR COUNTRY.

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Wall Street Trades in Political Currency

WILLIAM GREIDER: Unfortunately, Secretary Geithner, has a record- which we know about. When he was President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. And he was at the table, in many of the bailout transactions. First Bear Stearns then A.I.G. and others. And this is, again, not my opinion, but people on Wall Street talk about it all the time. He got spun around again and again by the big Wall Street players. The bailout of Bear Stearns was really about protecting J.P. Morgan Chase.

The story was told backwards in the press, basically, because it’s a story the government told that J.P. Morgan came in to buy Bear Stearns at the behest of the government. But in fact, if Bear Stearns had gone down, J.P. Morgan Chase was vulnerable itself to a wave of derivative crashing crisis. When they bailed out A.I.G., the chief executive of Goldman Sachs was in the room. Why was he in the room? Well, because he had big exposure to- through derivatives, to A.I.G. So, when they pump money into A.I.G., it sends the same dollars out and buys back these derivative contracts at par value, not even discounted, to the banks and others who hold them. Goldman Sachs gets $12 billion out of that transaction. This is another scandal waiting to surface. And I trust good, smart reporters are already on the case. And following the dollars that moved around among the leading financial institutions in ways that politicians could not have not known about it. It defies reason to think that Washington didn’t know this was happening.

BILL MOYERS: “The New York Times” on Thursday had this remarkable full page graph, based upon the excellent work of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group you’re familiar with-

WILLIAM GREIDER: Yeah.

BILL MOYERS: That monitors money and politics. They said, where Wall Street trades in political currency, and if you look at this you realize that political connections may be the new currency for deal makers. Right? And it shows which of the financial elites have contributed to which elite politicians.

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Flashback to 1981, Ronny Raygun, and Trickle Down Economics

William Geider

The Education of David Stockman
About a similar situation during the Ronny Raygun administration where Stockman, as his finacial advisor, was spinning the numbers to boost the economy

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Boehner the Bluffer (Photo: Speaker's office)

Report: Wall Street execs warn Boehner on debt ceiling brinksmanship

by Jed Lewison for Daily Kos

Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 12:40 PM EDT

Politico:

Republicans are growing increasingly concerned about the impact a bruising fight over raising the nation’s $14.29 trillion debt ceiling could have on U.S. financial markets.House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has had conversations with top Wall Street executives, asking how close Congress could push to the debt limit deadline without sending interests rates soaring and causing stock prices to go lower, people familiar with the matter said. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Tuesday night that he was not aware of any such conversations.

Republicans are busily making a long list of absurd demands in exchange for raising the debt-limit ceiling, but they are running a bluff. There’s not a chance in hell they will block an increase in the debt limit. They might demand a bipartisan vote, and in divided government, that’s both reasonable and with precedent, but anyone who thinks GOP leadership will actually block an increase in the debt limit—or that Democrats need to make any concessions beyond being willing to join the GOP in voting for the debt limit increase—is absolutely out of their gourd.

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